Saturday, December 17, 2016

Celebrating: Change in Plans

My plans have been changed this morning.  I was heading out for a fun morning of relaxation and then finish my holiday shopping. We woke to an ice storm with beautiful crystal trees and a driveway that reminds me of an ice rink. Our pond would be glistening if there was a hint of sun; however in Ohio a hint of sun is rarely seen these days.

I celebrate it's Saturday and now my plans have shifted.  What a blessing that with icy conditions cam on a Saturday when not as many people are on the roads.  Plans can be changed to this afternoon when it is suppose to warm up.  I celebrate being flexible with my day and realizing that staying home gives me a chance to post probably my last celebration blog post of 2016.

I am so thankful for my celebration community.  Throughout the school year, when I was lost, needed an extra supportive comment along with a chance to celebrate the learners in my classroom, I knew I had my colleagues to turn to every Saturday.  I hope everyone has a blessed holiday season, time to rejuvenate and most of all time to write and read an amazing book.

compliments of Twitter

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Slice of Life: OLW final thoughts on my quest

Last Saturday, I wrote a celebration post about choosing to find JOY in little moments of everyday.  "As I was thinking about this post, I was wavering from a Slice of Life and celebration.  Slicing helps me think about the whole picture which isn't always easy, and celebrations help me look inside the whole picture to find the joy."  This thought received several comments, and I have been reflecting about the contrast between celebrating and slicking. Slicing is a much more difficult post for me to write.  Thinking deeply is not a choice that I always want to make, and a slice requires difficult reflection and often I'm hesitant to publish it.

Is it possible to fight with your OLW word? I would say my OLW (quest) and I had several battles throughout 2016.. I was constantly asking why is this my word? I was uncomfortable with my word.  In August when I invited 27 learners into their classroom, I realized quickly that this school year was going to be unique. There have been several challenges that I have encouraged my learners through this year. To be honest I started to list the challenges, and I decided that their quests is their story to share. I deleted those statements. We’ve been on a quest for almost four months, and the path has been crooked with road bumps along the way; however, I celebrate all their learning as we continue to grow on our quest to become better and stronger learners as well as stronger citizens within our classroom and outside in the community. 

2016 is creeping to a close. Christmas vacation is right around the corner reminding me that there is a chance to take a break and rejuvenateI always anticipate the time with our children as we continue to build more holiday memories in Charleston, South Carolina. I hope everyone has a special holiday season with their family. As the years roll on, I realize the true gift of the season is time spent with my family and a chance to breathe deeply. Thank you for slicing along with me. 


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Choosing to Find Joy in Celebration

I choose to find a celebration everyday and when I begin my day with this decision I have a better day.  As I was thinking about this post, I was wavering from a Slice of Life and celebration.  Slicing helps me think about the whole picture which isn't always easy, and celebrations help me look inside the whole picture to find the joy.  I have been choosing to find the joy. 

  • A hesitant student finally found a book that he loved and said, "Thank you."
  • Parent emails that ask how they can help their child and thank me for supporting their child through difficult times.
  • FRACTIONS: common denominators, mixed numbers, adding, subtracting (OH MY) after a week using every trick up my sleeve, several students finally smiled during math class.
  • Hugs, hugs, and more hugs from students.
  • A student had a meltdown in our classroom on the floor sobbing, she told me that she had waited all year to be "board cleaner" please don't let other students help her. She wants to do it all by herself.  Problem solved :)
  • Bus duty:  I had the best conversations with my friend as we keep all the students safe. 
  • Bus duty: our principal is always on afternoon duty with us.
  • Message about test scores from my principal,"We're all in this together." 
  • One of my favorite days of the year when I give each student a copy of our December read aloud wrapped with a sticker from me.  Their smiles tell the story. And as my friend, Bill says, "Just read a great book for fun!" That is what we will be doing everyday before lunch.  Thank you Andrew Clements for The Last Holiday Concert.
  • I celebrate Ruth's video's about her writing journey about grading.  Her video tugged on my heartstrings. And once again I am reflecting on my practices. 
I am so thankful for the reminder to celebrate. I choose to celebrate and find joy.  I appreciate the supportive community on Saturday who take the time to comment.  Here's to the first Saturday in December - finding joy in celebrations.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Celebrating Learners in Room 234

It's been a grand week in Room 234!  Several students accomplished their goals in reading and math.  I celebrate their smile as they tell me 

  • "I finally read a Historical Fiction book and I really liked it.  Where's another one?"
  • "Did you know that I connected with Margaret in Are You There God? It's me Margaret."  One of my favorite books from fifth grade.  Thank you Judy Blume. 
  • Over 60 families attended Grand Discussion discussing Save me a Seat on Thursday night with their mom or dad
  • We had our second Newberry Club meeting - students are enthusiastic about their reading and casted their first vote of the season
  • EO made connections with Base 10 and the Metric System.

  • Students played with water to explore Metric Capacity. 

  • "I've never had so much fun in math1"  
  • "I never compared a liter to a gallon."
Celebrating learners in Room 234 and their inspiration to continue to grow. Asking great questions and most of all beginning to take ownership of their own learning. Several students set higher reading goals because  they had the confidence which has been building since August.  I hope all my friends are enjoying the learning at NCTE and tweet away. Thanks Ruth for encouraging us to celebrate.  

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Celebrating Unexpected Moments

I'm celebrating unexpected moments this week that pulled me up by my bootstraps and kept me going.  A phone call from a dear friend who I haven't talked to in a few months.  We text every now and then to just let each other know we're thinking of each other.  But this week, I sent a long text (which I tell my mom isn't the correct use LOL) but I wanted her to know how impressed I was with a recent project and how her words touched my heart.  Two minutes later, my phone rang.  It was reassuring to hear the sound of her voice.  In my busy world, I truly appreciate when friends pick up the phone to talk. That 10 minute phone call helped me smile and lifted my spirits.

My second celebration is one about honesty. It's hard sometimes to be honest with a friend especially a friend that you value and respect.  I sent a Voxer message to a colleague about an event we were suppose to be attending, and I decided not to go.  After I sent my "vague" message, she voxered (is that a word?) back and told me why she wasn't going either.  We both had the same reason and better yet we both were able to discuss our thoughts which was worth a $100 therapy session to me.  

My final celebration is this photo that I captured as we were walking to our Veterans Day assembly.  A second grader was struggling with tying his Cub Scout knot, and KC got of line and stopped to tie it for him.  Totally without any prompts!  That is a true celebration and the Boy Scout Way!!!   Thanks Ruth for encouraging us to to celebrate.  I am excited to read other posts.  Happy Saturday friends. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Celebration my OLW: Quest

Celebrations make all the difference when life is passing me by quickly.  I am celebrating my quest (OLW16) as our first 12 weeks of the school year comes to an end.  I celebrate moments that I knew would happen, but I wasn't sure when they would.  This year I have taken several photos of my class.  It's been helpful with my reflections as I think about how the learners in Room 234 have grown the first 12 weeks of their fifth grade year. Thanks to Ruth for encouraging us to Celebrate every week. Happy Saturday, and here's to locating your own quest.

EO smile says it all!!! The comfortable beach chair, a Friday morning celebration of multiplication.
I celebrate the time EO spent with me and her determination that she would accomplish her goal.

When we finished our first read aloud, the students decided they wanted to do projects to share their learning from Capture the FlagRD and her friends chose to write a play.  I celebrate creativity and fun props.  RD has her dog,  press credentials, reporters notebook and her briefcase. 

 CC wanted to make a poster, and my favorite part was that he used
crayons.  In a tech world, I celebrate a poster board, crayons and amazing thinking.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Celebrating: Math Shifts with Homework

Celebrating this week came on Tuesday evening, and I couldn't wait to write my blog post. I am watching the first game of the World Series.  I don't have a favorite team because my heart is with both cities and their beloved baseball teams.  My second celebration happened subtly.  There are so many posts, blogs, and thoughts about homework that I was overwhelmed. I have tried to wrap my thoughts around homework; my district has allowed me to form my own opinions as long as I can support my decision.  I can do that and I did that at curriculum night the third week of school.  My parent community supported my definition of  homework. 

My definition for Language Arts was simple. Lifelong readers and writers.  Choice with both of them and continue to grow in both reading and writing.  Done!

My definition in Math has ebbed and flowed this year.  I'm at crossroads lately.  I've been on both sides of the track with math homework.  I believe strongly in practice (similar) to reading; however, math computations feels and looks different.   Without going into pages of thoughts on math homework, most of math HW is a review including playing games with parents and writing a reflection, explaining a new skill or old fashion practice of basic facts (which are still  desperately needed needed in fifth grade)

This assignment was a first for me...the idea is home learning.  I composed the email and shared it with my students at the end of math class.  My learners looked a little confused, and I showed them how I had taken a few photos from the day to help help them.  As the emails came in tonight, I realized I had a hit a home run - no pun attended with my first celebration.  Just read what CS wrote me. 
Thanks Ruth for encouraging us to to celebrate throughout the week.  I love when my celebrations stand up and hit a grand slam for me.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Teaching is Messy when You're on a Quest

My one little word continues to grab me and won't let me go. Just once I wish I could scream, "Leave me alone."  I am not ready for another quest.  But then there is life and life gets messy as my friend Ruth Ayres writes about so many times,  I appreciate her honesty especially with those posts.  My messiness is in my classroom this year.  It's with an amazing group of 27 learners. It's really my messiness that I haven't wrapped my thinking even after seven weeks and 1/2 way through our first trimester.

My quest has been for flexible seating, workshop model in all subject areas and most of all visible student learning.  Lyndsey, our literacy coach, saved the day a week ago. I don't even know if she knows this.  But I was totally overwhelmed, and I asked her for more advice. I don't remember anything  except, "You jumped in with both feet in all subject areas."  I didn't even consider that affect on my overwhelming feeling of being lost several times in my quest.  

Fast forward to moments of pure joy... there have been several of them this year.  I believe they are breadcrumbs that help keep me moving forward on my quest.

There two girls are reading The War that Saved my Life.
They started before recess reading in the hallway.
Almost 100 students went to lunch walking by them.
I walked into the hall five minutes into recess, and they were still reading.
"We can't go to recess."  Can we please finish the book?
YES you can :)  

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Celebrate: My OLW (Quest)

It's been a long week in fifth grade.  Long meaning several conversations about how we are going to choose where to sit.  How we have to share the couch, stools and moving tables.  How I am not willing to have a sign out for all the seating preferences. Yes I played the teacher card.  Two weeks ago at our Friday class meeting, the students decided that you could only sit at "special" seat once during our rotation of five subjects a day.  

Fast forward to yesterday's class meeting.  An extremely shy student raised her hand and said, "Mrs. Caplin everyone isn't following the class rules about open seating."  I responded, "What should we do to solve this problem?"  Conversation continued similar to the past two Fridays.  I just listened and did not solve this problem again.  

I'm celebrating my quest on not solving the problems for the learners in my room this year. I don't respond when I'm asked

  • how to spell---- 
  • where's Massachusetts
  • how do use multiplicative form with 433,320.21
  • can you tell me the attribute for Anna in Capture the Flag
You get the point.  It's a huge transition for me.  I am no longer the gate keeper of answers.  I am the gate keeper of the questions, so they can find the answers.  It's been a hard process to break old traditions, but it's been an amazing quest for the first four weeks of school.  

I'm celebrating with my colleagues.  Thanks Ruth for helping me to remember to search for celebrations.  Happy Saturday :)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

#DigLitSunday: Reflection

Margaret asks us to reflect for this week's DigLitSunday.  Reflection was my #OLW (one little word) in 2012.  My #OLWs have impacted my life both personally and professionally. I really never have any idea of where my #OLW will lead me. 

Reflection is ever changing.  There are moments especially in the car driving home for 20 minutes when I have the waves of rollercoasters reflections. The ups and downs of reflection. I tend to lean more on the harder side of reflection when things aren't going well.  But I'm learning to be softer with myself. I think that is why I chose my #OLW Quest for 2016. Reflection is crucial for me especially this year as I embark on a new journey in my classroom (flexible seating along with inquiry learning) Blogging is an important part of my reflection. There have been moments when I wasn't sure if I should hit "post" and what's interesting those posts are the ones that tend to have the most comments. I'm thankful for reflection I always believe I'm better educator. I'm thankful for my PLN of friends who are everywhere from Maine to Montana.  I'm thankful for colleagues at BES and friends that support me.  Most of all I am so thankful for my family. Thanks Margaret, Reflections of Teche, for encouraging me with your weekly tweet to post on #DigLitSunday.

Sunday, September 11. I still remember where I was 15 years ago.  I was teaching and the first attack happened during my plan time. I gathered with my team members, watched silently, cried and had to walk into my classroom to teach.  I'm not sure how I made it through the day, If I'm honest I know how I made it through that day.  Prayers and knowing that I had to maintain composure, so my students' parents would be the ones to tell their child about what happened on 9-11.  I remember.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

#DiglitSunday - Motivation

Margaret gathers #DigLitSunday posts at Reflections on the Teche.  I appreciate the invite every week to post; however, I haven't taken the opportunity to post.  I always enjoy learning along with others who post on Sunday. When I saw the tweet about the topic for this week: motivation. It hit me right in the heart.  Motivation for my students is where my first thoughts flew too. But then I paused and thought all day Saturday about motivation for me.  Margaret has chosen extremely smart topics for #DigLitSunday.  Topics that are relevant at the start of the school year.  Motivation.....where do I start....

I took this photo several year ago on a trip at Lake Erie.  The quietness of the lake and the time to relax with my husband ended up being one of those moments caught in time for me. Motivation evolves for me.  Motivation ebbs and flows.  Motivation unfortunately is sometimes based on who is around me.  I believe that is why I love my PLN group on twitter and blogging.  Those colleagues are the shoulders I lean on even when I can't physically be with them.  I'm learning about Voxer and hearing their voices has made a huge difference in my motivation.  

As Margaret asks me to consider motivation, I realize that it also comes with my energy level. Summer motivation is huge and I believe I can conquer the classroom especially with power lessons, huge inquiry probing questions and differentiation. Three weeks into the school year with 27 students motivation is weening.  Moments in the classroom take over because all of a sudden I know my students and am beginning to know their needs.  Motivation shifts to meet 27 individual learners.  Teaching is going to be different this year with the shift in flexible learning as well as teaching and implementing new focus areas. Motivation will continue to be on the forefront of my learning.  Happy Sunday my friends. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Celebrating: Messy and Rockstars

Each week I am constantly thinking about my celebration. It really makes a huge difference with my attitude several times a week with my students.  It's been a bumpy rocky start to the school year. We have completed our second full week and we've found a little corner to start heading toward a smoother path. I am excited to Celebrate this week and thanks Ruth for encouraging me to find a little celebration everyday.

I'm celebrating messy.  Messy learning as well as messy lesson plans.  With the encouragement of my math coach, I have totally revamped the start of our math class.  We didn't jump right into 5.NBT.1 (which just reading it) you might understand why she nudged me gently to start the year "Thinking as Mathematicians" and discussing the  Mathematical Practices as my guide.  Well it's been a journey, one I wouldn't change, but one I would say hasn't been easy for me or the students.  We're truly learning together. The photo above is from a "Rich" math problem about a trip to the beach.  The students had several calculations and one of them involved long division from the old school of thought; however, most students didn't have any idea how to do it YET.  After 20 students said, "Mrs. Caplin,I need help." I put on the breaks and offered the banks (play money) and all of them tried to use money to solve the problem.  It was even crazier for me because all of them were withdrawing different amounts. However for them it was the absolute best choice.  After two days of working on the same problem. (That was another coachable moment for me) They got it.  Math is 70 minutes, but yesterday it was 110 minutes, and every child succeeded including time for a snack. 

I would rather "know" authors than anyone else who might be famous. I told my students as we were discussing our favorite authors.  After namedropping a few that I "know" I started reading conferences. A. told me he loved Cynthia Lord and his favorite books are Shelter Pet Squad. A. doesn't really like reading because it's hard.  After I posted this on my face book page, Cynthia graciously offered to send an autographed bookmark. She wrote a lovely encouraging note and as we opened the envelope you could have heard a pin drop.  A's smile was huge and he instantly told me I had to laminate both things so they could last forever.  Authors are rockstars especially when they give so graciously and have such a huge impact on our students' lives. I celebrate Cynthia Lord for having such a kind heart. Thank you.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Celebrating First 3 Days

Wednesday, August 17 9:05 AM
Welcome to my 29th year of teaching. First day. Envisioned my new classroom for at least 6 months prior to this date.  Several conversations with my principal, coaches, self-talk, colleagues. I had it perfect in my mind.  Open seating, no set desks, space for supplies, and tons of open floor space. Enter 27 students.  I felt like a rookie.  I had never taught a day in my life.  I looked up from the carpet and wondered what had I done.  So many things I never considered.  

Thursday morning, 1:00 AM
What had I done?  How do I learn their names when they don't have assigned seats?  Even though we spent all day building community - I've made a mistake. My husband reminds me, "You've got this."  I am reminded of the sweetest comment after I called MP the wrong name twice, "It's ok Mrs. Caplin, it's a lot easier for me I've known you since kindergarten and you didn't know it." 

Thursday, August 18 7:05 AM
Couldn't sleep,  Couldn't get to school soon enough. Turned on my Jimmy Buffet CD to remind me of summer.  Took a deep breath. Sat down on the couch and looked around.  Changes have to be made.  Moved one table out.  Moved three desks out.  Moved "typical" chairs out. Stacked the nesting table. 27 students arrived - more space.  Better job with names (two hours looking at their first day photos last night really helped).  Built bridges with pennies had a tremendous Thursday.

Friday, August 19
Starbucks Friday! Class meeting.  Students share about their week.  "Love open seating." "Couch is the best."  "Never had nesting tables."  "It's not so crowded."  "I've never had a class pet."  "Thanks Mrs. Caplin."  I guess I still got it.

Thanks to Ruth Ayres for encouraging me to Celebrate.  I sure couldn't have celebrated on Wednesday, but now I realize I had three days of growth. 

Building bridges #happyfaces
#happylearners choosing their own space

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Shift #3: Classroom Conversation

Shift #3 will be the toughest challenge for me.  I had the opportunity for coaching last year, and it really helped me to notice my talk. Classroom talk is a two way street and in the past I have been more of the director of conversations. My other guilt is that I tended to be the answer keeper (not all the times) but especially when I was rushed for time and for sure in math. 
Compliments of Google image

I'm excited about this shifting teacher talk to include more question because I believe it could be the game changer.  I have read several articles, chapters and twitter chats to help me change my thinking.  I am going to have a cheat sheet index card to help me the first few months of school.  It has a huge question mark and a few prompts to remind me to stop and ask questions.  My go to questions include

  • Explain your thinking NOT explain your answer
  • Justify your answer with support from your notebook NOT show me your work
  • Turn and talk with a friend who has a different answer/solution NOT just turn and talk
My biggest learning happened in math the past few years.  I needed to make changes with how they responded with answers. I have shifted from: What's the answer? to Which strategy did you use to solve the problem?  It's a double dip question both the answer and the thinking. This change was important because I used to want the "right" answer. Focusing on strategies which are crucial for math since there are so many different ways to solve a problem. Our conversation is centered around the strategies and their thinking not just the answer. 

Shift #3 will be a year long commitment. I have been thinking about gentle reminders to help me remember these changes. I'm getting excited about implementing my thinking from the summer when school starts in two weeks. I appreciate the comments because they always help me grow as a learner.