Wednesday, March 30, 2016

#OLW16 Quest and Saying Hello

Today is a combo post. I'm reflecting on the importance of taking the time to say hello and my end of month reflection on my #OLW16: quest. 

Monday was my first day back from Spring Break. My husband and I took a seven day cruise. Even with being empty nesters our lives are filled with jobs and daily projects which in the spring on the farm are adding up quickly.  The biggest decision would be which deck chair to choose in the "Serenity" over 21 area which was in the front of the ship.  I always wanted the front row (that's the teacher in me) so we could look out over the tranquil blueness of the ocean.  I have to admit I'm a people watcher and enjoy conversations especially on a cruise.  The first piece of advice from our Cruise Director Adam was to say, "Hello" because everyone has time to talk.  The stories we listened to the past week were touching, funny, and a little out of my comfort zone. 

Life is so different when I allow myself the chance to slow down and say,"Hello." We met a 73 year old gentleman who was born in France and lived there most of his life.  Moved to Canada to get duel citizenship and while on vacation in Amber Cove, Dominican  Republic he decided at age 48 that he was going to move there because of the blue skies, water and of course the warmer temperature.  He opened his own business which is a tourist company that has zip lines and helicopter rides.  He's brilliant and still flies his own plane and helicopter.  In addition, he also owns thoroughbred race horses.  Sitting on the bench, visiting with him was a quest.  A chance to remember the importance of saying, "Hello" and sharing a story.  I appreciate the kindness of his voice, and I am thankful to be reminded every quest continues to lead me to my story. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wednesday Word Work: Transfer

This past Saturday I had the chance to listen to Chris Lehman speak about Close Reading.  I’ve heard him speak several times before and each time I am able to absorb a little more.  I’ve been thinking intensely about word work in my classroom. I was reminded, “Close Reading happens when we pause at a part in a story/article and reread." For me that often occurs with vocabulary.  Chris reminds us when we go back to reread there are three areas to consider: 
TE (text evidence) WC (word choice) and S (structure). 

As I thought about this slide and Word Choice (WC) I like how it is circular.  Many times in word work I believe, myself included, we see skills in isolation.  I always want to connect word work with writing for that implementation piece; however do I build enough time in for that practice?  Probably not if I am honest with myself. I encourage the transition from word study to writing but I struggle because I don't want to force it.  "You must use 8 words today from word work in your writer's notebook." because that is not writers do.  Writers collect words, learn words and apply them.  I'm pretty sure most of my students aren't transferring their words, and now I'm reflecting on that transfer - the authentic piece of connection.  

There is a small group of teachers reading Choice Words by Peter Johnston. I've read this book several times, but each time I read it I learn something new or think differently. Perhaps all of this word work thinking will all fall neatly into place soon or maybe not?  Next week is Spring Break and time to recharge. I'll be back posting in two weeks.  Happy Spring Break friends and as always thanks for reading. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Celebrations & Continued Learning

It's time to Celebrate thanks to Ruth for encouraging us to take some time to reflect on our week and celebrate.  It's always a fun way to start my Saturday morning; however this Saturday I will be at the Literacy Connection listening to Chris Lehman speak.  He was here in October and returns today.  I'm excited to learn more and have a chance to visit with some friends.

I had an amazing week!  One of those weeks when everyday I was thankful for a big event which helped me grow professionally and our family was blessed this week with several exciting events. Life has it's ups and down but when life is up I have learned to appreciate it and have extreme gratitude.

One of my highlights was having the opportunity to visit a third grade classroom during math workshop. I've been working with our math coach, McKenzie.  She is constantly asking me questions that help me to think deeper.  In the beginning I was a little intimidated because I didn't know the answers but once I learned it was a conversation of learning my mind shifted and I embraced the learning.  We spent over an hour observing Kami's classroom and listening to her students share their mathematical practices and thinking.  I wrote down as much as I could I wan interested in the "talk."  I will be processing what I heard and am anxious to begin to think about how I can apply my new learning to fifth grade.  I am thankful for this opportunity and the celebrations of this week.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Wednesday Word Work: Tale of Two Conversations

A few conversations this past week started me thinking about the role of a teacher as a learner. The first conversation was with a teacher who was struggling with word study.  She felt like her lessons were not flowing, and the lessons were more like a check off list.  As we talked,  I suggested several activities and she made al list of "possibilities."  I saw her get overwhelmed as we continued talking.  I realized I was talking way too fast for her.  Together we looked at the list of "possibilities" and helped her to choose a few from the list. These are the ones she chose to tackle for the next week.
  • collecting words (from the read aloud or picture books) new skill
  • word observations (she had already taught this skill earlier in the year) review skill
  • playing with words (sharing magnetic letters, dry erase boards) helping with spelling
The second conversation was with a friend who is an amazing math teacher discussing the importance of "talk" in the workshop.  She shared a video of her class during math workshop and as I listened to the talk of the students I noticed that the teacher was in background.  I was on overload with so many ideas running through my mind.  I couldn't comprehend more than one idea.  I asked her for one strategy to help me with talk in my workshop because I felt overwhelmed.  Her suggestion was about how to help students have a conversation without raising their hands every time.  If a student wanted to change the topic of the conversation, they he/she would raise their hand which signaled a shift in thinking otherwise the students would talk math. Brilliant light bulb moment for me. 

Compliments of Google Images
As I think about tale of two conversations, I was on both sides of the track.  Both of these opportunities to learn more about myself are important. One is not better than the other.  In the first conversation, I was leading the conversation and helping support the teacher.  In the second, I was the learner and grasping for one strategy to modify the talk in my math workshop.  One strategy was all that I could hear and begin to think about for talk in math. How many times do our students feel that way in our classroom? Both experiences helped me to remember the importance of teachers as learners.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Wednesday Word Work: Keeping the Mini in Minilesson

How do you keep word work lessons mini?  What a great question.  In our district, we are required to do 10-15 min. word work daily.  This is not a problem for me however keeping the mini in mini lesson is more difficult.  I always start with the learning target typically in Social Studies or Science. 

We are studying Native Americans and how their environment impacts their living conditions.   I choose 3-5 words, which will support the target, and those words become focus also for word work. I chose the following words: adapt, migrant, migrating, migration, adaptations.  The students are familiar with these words through our lesson in Social Studies.

For word study, we focused on the difference between adapt (verb) and adaptation (noun), migrant (noun), migration (adjective or noun) and migrating (verb) The word observations and word sorts around these five words were powerful.  I started with an inquiry what do you notice about these five words?  Conversations were rich as I eavesdropped on them. 

G. said, “I didn’t know migration could be two different parts of speech.”  
B. asked, “Can you help me?” 
G replied, “Look in our book, see migration routes – that makes it an adjective.”
B. read out of the book,  "The migration from Asia to United States was treacherous."
G.  "Yea that is a noun." 

Mini will always be a challenge for me;however, I've learned and continue to practice on keeping it short and simple. The biggest shift in mini has been connecting the mini to prior learning.  #WWW. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Slice of Life: It's Not about the Furniture

It's March 1 and the 9th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge has started.  I find the community of Slicers so important in my writing community. I will be commenting as much as possible and continue Slicing on Tuesday. With my Wednesday Word Work posts, I am focusing on those blogs first; however,  Huge thanks to Two Writing Teachers .

My slice for today is about furniture. Moving furniture in my classroom. Wanting better bigger furniture.  Being envious of colleagues rooms and taking snapshots of "wanna be classrooms."  It's taken me 27 years to learn that furniture is more about me than my students.  I learned that yesterday as my students entered the classroom.  We had a work day the past Friday and after completing my progress reports I started rearranging my room.  Not huge changes, but small changes.  How did I make these changes?  I knew my learners - their strengths and weaknesses.  Like any year, I have a mixed bag of students who need to work alone, work together and work in small groups.  Some like quiet, some like digital (need a plug) some like noise (not my favorite but I support it). 

Here's what I figured's not about the furniture it's about meeting the learners and creating an environment which allows for choices and supports their learning styles.  I didn't spend any money to update anything. I just rearranged and created different spaces.  It was complete joy seeing students using the low beach chairs, the "new"writing table, and laying on the bench discussing their books.  I am extremely slow to learn this lesson. My hope is that anyone reading this post can learn quicker that I did. Feel free to print this as a reminder :)

PS.  I'm embarrassed that I asked Kristin Z. where did you purchase those really neat benches?  Now I know it's not about the benches.  Although she told me years ago at Target :)  Thanks Kristin :)

Notebooks (whole class writing journals taken home the first night)
Life Quote (thanks JoEllen McCarthy for suggesting a dry erase board)
Cushions from the Super Bowl underneath (Thanks Susan)