Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Slice of Life: Reflection on 2015

This Friday is the last day of 2015 in our classroom. As I'm reflecting (OLW15) on the first four months of school. It's been a great start to the year with celebrations including last Friday's comment, "Mrs. Caplin, I've never understood long division. It's the best day of the year."  Another email from a sixth grade student thanking me for spending so much time helping him with his math and reading. As the school year closes, I am thankful for these celebrations.

  • All my students are reading their JR books that they choose. They know their teacher is a reader and will always be asking, "What are you reading?"
  • Newbery Club is meeting this Thursday, and I'm celebrating all 23 of them that go above and beyond and choose to be apart of our club early in the morning before school.  
  • Long division doesn't have to be long - it can be repeated addition and/or place value long 7.  What ever strategy works best for my students is the #1 choice.
  • We're reading Family Under the Bridge written in 1958 in Paris, France.  I read it every year and have enough copies for everyone to have their own. There is a magic when my students know that the book their holding might have been held by their brother or sister who is now in high school.  It's been a different type of read aloud this year with the recent events in Paris.  We've spent additional time having important conversations. I've used  Google images showing them photos of important historical places in Paris.  
  • Yesterday the The Ohio State Jazz combo visits our school every year.  The opportunity for our students to be exposed to different types of music as well as learn the story behind the music is very special. 
  • Thursday we will be doing 5th Grade Gives Back collecting toiletries, making snowflakes to deliver to the nursing home and after school several students and teachers will go the nursing home to sing and pass out the snowflakes.
  • Friday will be our holiday party, and I'm super excited this year.  The room mothers asked for every student to donate a gently used book they've already read, and we're playing a game with them.  All my students will be taking home a old/new book to read over the holidays.  Perfect for Room 234 :)
Finally I am thankful for my renewed energy in writing. Opening the computer and having something  to type.  Grabbing ideas from Sunday sermons and collecting interesting vocabulary from everywhere.  New and exciting words are jumping off the pages and my wordsmith brain is happy happy!!  I hope everyone has a blessed and relaxing Christmas. Thanks to the Two Writing Teachers for encouraging me to Slice on Tuesdays.  My plans right now are to celebrate with our family the first week and find some writing time the second week. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Slice of Life: Eeyore Complex

I rolled out on the wrong side of the bed. It was one of those days when every email I received was a problem or created more work for me. I was about at my wits end and have to admit that I was very boisterous during lunch hour with my thoughts about the latest requests.  I continued to walk around like Eeyore and just had a grumpy look on my face.  After school, I meandered down to my friends classroom in which I found my other three companions and I just let loose.  They all listened, and a few of them had inquiries in support as well as questions.  I’m pretty sure it was a gripe session in the best of days.  However, knowing I have my friends in the trenches with me and I had a safe place to vent was so important to me. I am thankful to my colleagues who always listen when I’m ready to pounce. I am thankful to my daughter who I call everyday after school as we discuss our days as teachers.  I am thankful to my mom who always listens and seems to find a glimmer of light.  And my husband 30 years later still says, “I can just tell. What’s wrong?” Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for encouraging me to slice about life's adventures.  

Thanks to Google Images for sharing one of my favorite Pooh friends.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Slice of Life: Can't Find the Path (Yet)

Over Thanksgiving, I had several conversations with our adult children which left me in a quandary. There are so many tough questions being asked these days not only from our kids, but about life.  I think there lies the answer: I don't have to know all the answers as long as I continue to learn and have empathy as part of the process.

 I watched Ruth's video about her decade of One Little Words.   Her calming voice along with her explanations resonated in me. My OLW15: reflection has sent me on twists and turns I never saw coming this year. When I take a moment to reflect and realize the answer is not always there or more importantly the path can't be found (yet).  We're all on a journey to figure out the pieces (slices) of life. The conversations really made me realize that my journey at 52 is not any different than one at the age of 23 and 25.  I am thankful for that realization. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for encouraging me to Slice. 

Summer reflection from a moment on our dock.

Monday, November 30, 2015

OLW: Reflecting About November

Thanks to Google Images
In past years, I always wrote a blog post on the last day of the month about my OLW which is  reflection.  Some how I lost that plan this year, but as I thought about November over Thanksgiving I realized that my thinking evolved into three areas.

I've been struggling in my classroom.  In a good way if that's possible, yes I think that is possible.  I have questioned every practice in my math block and several of my literacy practices.  It's been a challenging first 12 weeks of school.  Someone should have told me that after teaching 27 years the 28th year doesn't get easier it just gets more confusing.  I understand why there are more challenges. Thoughtful consideration of my learners which includes differentiation, constant reading of blogs and tweets for guidance, and my CL writing family have helped me find a newly navigated course for the first trimester although bumpy I have a course. 

I'm thinking deeply about education, not only in Room 234, beyond our school, our district, and beyond Ohio. Several blog posts have made me stop and reflect (OLW15) and  I haven't wrapped my ideas around some of the blogs or tweets from the past few weeks.  I will say social media has opened my world to amazingly sophisticated and intelligent learners, and I am thankful for my virtual PLN. To be continually challenged is something that I cling too. 

Is there bloggers' guilt? Just like mother's quilt?  I've read so many blog posts in November.  Printed several, shared several, retweeted tons. Yes I'm guilty - taking and not reciprocating.  I feel like I've been on a journey this year, and the road map hasn't been as clear.  It's always interesting how blogging helps me reflect as well as organize my trip.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Power of Choice in Writing - OLW Reflection

W.5.7. Conduct short research projects that use several sources to build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.

Enter Magic School Bus.  Who doesn't love Miss. Frizzle and their far out adventures? After several mini lessons on non fiction text features, I told my class it's time for their first research of the year.  You could have heard a collected sigh from my students. Even, "On no not yet Mrs. Caplin."  I played along for a few moments telling them they would have to research about their favorite president or season.  "Ugh..." to say it politely.  

I then passed out the Magic School Bus books again and asked them if they would like to write their own little book modeled after Magic School Bus. Sighs turned into cheers and then it got even louder when I told them they could choose their own topic and would become a published author, "Who me? Really? How?"  

Some of the topics included:  hockey, Eiffel Tower, monkeys, headphones, pocket watches, music, Empire State Building, remote control cars, and fiber optics. The icing on the cake was reading this page in her book.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Celebrating This Past Year

It's my birthday, and I'm celebrating the life lessons from this this past year. The older I get (52 today) the more my perspective (OLW) changes. Life gets simpler not easier. When I think about this past year, I realize moments of celebration are always around my family and occasionally my career.  I am perfectly fine with that.  I'm celebrating

  • text messaging and face time (with our daughter in SC) it's like she is never too far away - although there are several days I wish it was a shorter drive to visit her
  • life lessons learned as our son is a senior at The Ohio State University and the opportunities as we continue to help him grow.
  • a wonderful new group of fifth graders - everyday we learn side by side. I'm on the floor more, I'm inquiring more, and best yet I'm slowing down more.
  • our home, for 20 years, I am always thankful as I pull in the driveway and cross over the creek especially at this time of year which is another celebration
  • LOVING autumn celebration of colors, cooler weather and my pumpkins!!
  • my grandfather who was and continues to be a strong influence in my life. He helped me to find my passion in choosing to live in the country "You have to have water on your property." "You need to get back up on the horse." "Walk the lane and get us lunch" as we're bailing hay. 
Thanks to Ruth for encouraging celebration here is the link up

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Slice of Life My OLW

My #OLW reflection really hit me as I drove home today after school! I am celebrating putting the brakes on today in class. I started the day with a list of students who I needed to conference with from last week. It was after lunch and my list was still sitting there. I knew I wanted to find them but my lesson plans had other ideas.  I looked at my list for the fourth time after I finished read aloud.

I just couldn't do it...I decided that we would have extended time choosing SSR or continued writing in WNB.  You could have heard a pin drop. M. replied, "But Mrs. Caplin we already had time to read we never get it twice." With a huge smile, I replied, "You do this year." And they cheered.

So many times, way too many times, I have forged ahead with my LP. I always get stressed and if I'm honest I know that the lesson I taught wasn't the best. I am choosing to slow down this year. I am choosing to focus on students first. After all it is really easy to draw an arrow in the LP box to the next day.

Side note: I didn't even plan on blogging tonight. Left my computer at school. I composed on my iPad - wow I'm still a learner.  Thanks Two Writing Teachers for encouraging me.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Celebrating: Letting Go!

let go the first day of school.  

  • I was nervous to leave the supplies open ended, they were thrilled.
  • I was hesitant that everyone would be included, everyone was successful.
  • I was leery when I gave only one direction "Build the tallest free-standing structure" they worked together to build their structure.
  • I wanted to "jump in" and make suggestions, I kept quiet.
  • I wanted to offer encouragement, but I knew that would be teacher "approval."
  • I wasn't sure of the connections they would make, and they made better connections that I could have imagined.
We discussed their learning experience and created the chart above.  I asked them what did they learn as a team?  We connected these ideas to our new school year.  I was impressed with the last one: say something positive first before you make a suggestion.  WOW!  If we accomplished that on day one I think we are set for the year.

TAKE AWAY:  When we step away and allow our students the opportunity for open ended learning (projects, #makespace) there is more commitment and ownership.  Students find creative solutions and most of them I didn't even consider.  I'm excited for the opportunity to continue challenging my students and learning along side them.  It's going to be a GREAT year - Let's celebrate!  Thanks to Ruth for reminding us to celebrate every week. Here is the link for this week.  I'm always thankful for our Saturday time together in the blogging community.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Letting Go - Celebrating Creativity

After reading several blogs, attending Dublin Leadership Academy and having several conversations with colleagues, I am embracing the idea of “letting go.” I spent the summer with my #OLW: reflection.  Thinking about how I can let go and as important allowing students the choices they need to be more independent.  Every step doesn’t have to be planned and every outcome doesn’t have to be known.  I’m doing a little self-talk: take a breath; if you know me this will be a huge learning curve. A focus area for me as a learner and a teacher is going to be celebrating creativity

It’s important to build on what I know. I know the center of our classroom will still focus on inquiry and wonder, which goes hand in hand with allowing students choice especially with collaboration and the opportunity to create. Wonderopolis will continue to be my go to website to celebrate choice in reading as well as allowing students to eventually create their own wonders. 

In the past, my students have completed several first day activities: building a class puzzle, building marshmallow and spaghetti structures, playing fact and opinion. These are all great ideas but again I structured them tightly by Limiting supplies and giving specific directions.  Granted they enjoyed it, but they didn't have the chance to choose their supplies which is a huge part of collaboration with a new group of students. 

The table is set to greet them as they arrive to fifth grade on their first day.
Spaghetti, toothpicks, marshmallows, Duct tape, different size construction paper and containers.
Tomorrow when my students arrive, they are going to see a variety of supplies and my only directions will be to create the tallest structure on Wednesday; Thursday build the strongest structure. After each structure is complete we will discuss the following:
  1. ·      What did you learn about structure as well as working as team?
  2. ·      What are you proud of with the structure and as a team?
  3. ·      What would you change with the structure and as a team? 

I will record their thinking on chart paper..  I will ask each student to write a reflection in their notebook, so that on Friday we can come back to both experiences and compare/contrast them.  My goal is that as a class we will write a class motto for the year and will continue to reflect on these experiences throughout the year.  More to follow who knows what will happen after all I'm letting go.....