Reflections from the All Write Institute — #4

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To Lunch…and Beyond! Reflections from the All Write Institute — #4

The lunch session took me by surprise. I didn’t want to miss the session called “From Boring to Enjoying”, but I was hungry, so I ate some wonderful food catered by a local BBQ. After filling up and meeting with some blogging buddies in person (!), I headed off to see teachers from Fort Wayne, IN talk about how they used Notice and Note strategies (Beers/Probst) in their classrooms to make reading come alive. The speakers were wonderful, entertaining, and knowledgeable.  I loved hearing how they used journals, Edublogs, and stations to keep students interested in reading. “Tabletop Twitter” sounded engaging — a way to have kids respond to reading or writing — a way to collaborate and also have some fun.

One of my main goals next school year is to get students started with blogging. I have found blogs to be a fulfilling way to spend time with writing, and it’s social, academic, and fun! Students can write stories, poems, reflections, and share their views — all from the comforts of “home” (school classroom). Blogging also allows for differentiated instruction and small group work; I can have students easily save their work without losing papers, etc. as well. If there’s one thing I am learning as a veteran teacher, it’s that technology is available and useful, and I need to work with more technology in my classroom.

After lunch, it was time to talk books! This was my favorite part of the day! Tammy and Mary Helen were also wonderful, animated presenters that shared their favorite books for mini-lessons and read alouds.  Although many of the books were geared towards the primary grades, I know for sure I will be using many of them in my middle school classroom next year. Why? Because research (and my own experience) shows that reading aloud to students works. Many higher-level thinking skills are used in reading these books, yet they are easy to read (so students can focus on craft and not so much vocabulary), and teachers don’t have to use more time than a mini-lesson to make teaching points (time management). Plus, these books are engaging! (What administrator isn’t looking for that?)

For example, Pitter Patter by Martha Sullivan, shows different ways to say Hello (kids love “different ways to say…”), has information about the water cycle (meeting the standards), and provides extra activities with interactive apps (centers or at-home extension). I love books that include extras at the end. “For more reading, go to…” This keeps students engaged after the school day is over.  Another engaging book is I’m a Shark! by Bob Shea. This incredible author is a favorite in schools, and this book includes connections to life, grammar/spelling reminders, and figurative language (also meeting the standards!). One book I have not used before, but I will this fall, is Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin. I learned about the “Power of 3” many years ago in writing workshop, and the students always love the lesson when I teach them this “magic”. This book has voice, which some students find difficult to write. Also, everyday happenings CAN be stories, which students learn quickly in writing workshop. We work on personal narratives first in our curriculum, and Dragons…can help us, I’m sure!

Sharing books and joy is an amazing way to spend time, not only in the classroom with students, but also during a summer PD institute! I was inspired; as I left the room, the only question I had was, “I wonder how much money we are allowed to spend this year on books?”

 

 

Slice of Life Tuesdays: Taking a Break

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Taking a Break

Assessments are over; what should we do?

Should we sing? Should we dance? I haven’t a clue.

Yes! Let’s dance! Yes! Let’s sing!

We need to take a break and bring

the students and teachers back to life.

Take a break — why, yes! That’s what we’ll do.

We’ll eat cookies and pizza and ice cream, too.

It won’t be long before the school year is through.

Then summer will be here; what should we do?

Our school year is much longer this year — 8 snow days to make up! I can’t help but feel a little stressed tonight as we wind down and prepare for summer and beyond. I’m thinking, “What should I do…first?”  Enjoy your last days of school!

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Thank you to the team at Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life writing. You ladies rock!

Slice of Life Story Challenge: Day 3

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Slice of Life Small LogoThe March Slice of Life Story Challenge is hosted by http://www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com.

My Team

I love my team. Those of you who have heard me before know that I love my team. I love my team in the morning, when we greet each other upon entering the building (rushed and out of breath from shoveling out of our driveways). We plan at 10:30 each day and talk about life at school, curriculum, the next steps for ISTEP preparation, etc. We moan and groan at each other, but we also play songs and dance, like we did today!

I love my team in the afternoon. When we finally get to lunchtime, we call homes, plan again, help students switch books at their lockers, all the things a teacher does besides each lunch! We support each other, and even share food sometimes, when one of us forgot to pack!

I love my team after school. We shoo everyone out the door to their buses, and let out a mass SIGH that class is over for the day. Oh, but we are not done! To the copy machine! To the office to get mail! To the gym to help with the concession stand during basketball season, or to the track to get the kids started on their warm ups (that’s coming soon!)! Busy days never end.

I love my team on the weekends. We read each other’s Facebook posts, we plan, we text each other: “Is your Power School down, too?” or “Another snow day.” We always keep track of each other.

I love my team!

 

Slice of Life Tuesday: Running Out of Time

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Running, running, running…

To the school supply stores, to the doctor, to the dentist, to the SCUBA shop, to Ohio for SCUBA day…wait! Today is National Book Lovers Day! I have to read! I cannot believe these are the last days of summer. I agree with a fellow Slicer; I’m not ready!

Running, running, running...

I have draft-planned my first few weeks of school. There are so many great ideas, stories, and lessons. Mostly, I want my students to read and write well, and have fun doing it! Yet, I feel a sense of urgency, and the meetings for staff development start next week — wait! Oh, no, it’s THIS week!

Running, running, running…

With all of this running around, I should be in great shape to start the school year. We shall see!

Curriculum Tip Tuesday! Calling All Parents, Students, Teachers …

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If you are a parent, a student, or a teacher, I would like to introduce you to a new site for reading and writing that I find worthwhile. Now, mind you, this site is owned by a friend of mine, Dr. T.P. Jagger, a former colleague and current children’s book author and professor, so I have a biased opinion. But…

Check this out! www.tpjagger.com.

I especially enjoy the original readers’ theater scripts and the “writing tips” video (more to come!) that Dr. Jagger created to help students read and write more fluently and creatively. Plus, his dynamic style is engaging and fun!

Parents: This site is easy to use at home! Just type the address, navigate, and enjoy helping your child to learn more; have a great time reading and writing.

Students: Check in with “Dr. J” personally, and he can help you to become a better reader and writer. He’s interesting to watch, too! Funny guy!

Teachers: I have used this site already in my classroom, as a center! While you are conferring, a few students can watch a video, practice a readers’ theater script together, or navigate the site for interesting (cool!) information. This may be a helpful “extra” lesson plan for you.

Thank you for your interest in education, and your continued support of all of our educational websites! Happy Teacher Appreciation Day! Have a great week.

SOL Tuesday: Feeling of Trepidation

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I have a feeling of trepidation today. I don’t know why. Yesterday I came home feeling nauseated, and today is different — better, but worse.  I really need to climb over whatever hill is in front of me and get back to work after vacation, but I’m not sure how.  I did my lesson planning before spring break (accomplishment!), and the plans were in order and easy to carry out the last couple of days. Even my new groups worked well together today in reading rotations! That’s great, but…

I don’t know! Have you ever felt like something was coming to smack you in the face, but you don’t know what it is or when it will hit? Hmm…

Tuesday — Tense — Trepidation — Tell me to stop! Ok, I’m fine.

Spring IS around the corner, right? With the inch of snow that fell last night, one wouldn’t think so, but I am seeing more green on the trees now, and more birds and animals outside, so I am hopeful. There, that’s better.

Hopeful — Harmonious — Happy!

See, writing DOES make you feel better. I tell my students to write daily. Some still say, “I don’t know what to write!” Tomorrow, I’ll say, “Start with some letters of the alphabet, and think of words that show how you are feeling.” Lesson planning continues…back to work!

 

 

 

 

 

 

WFMAD Challenge: Thinking about Consistency in Classrooms

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I’ll just jump right in; it’s late! I’ve been thinking about consistency in classrooms. I know (prior knowledge, research, communication with others) that consistency is key in classroom management, and I have found this short school week that consistency does play a key role in lowering stress for classroom teachers…eventually.

The stress level has been high (!) this school year, with getting to know new students, planning again, standing up all day again (tired feet!), and one of my goals is being more consistent and less flexible with my expectations for students.  High expectations = High achievement.  I followed my plan to a “T” this week, and today was a wonderful Friday, full of learning! My students behaved and were engaged in the learning. They seemed to take pride in their work, and I observed them working together well, communicating politely, and getting the job done. I was even surprised with some of the scores on my formative reading assessment; students were achieving higher scores than I expected. The week was full of stress: calling parents, writing notes for documentation, talking to the administrators. As frustrating as the week was, and as much as I wanted to assume the role of “nice guy,” I did not give in. I was consistent and expected the best. I even said to a colleague Friday morning, “No!” when she asked how I felt about having a Friday free time session. “They don’t deserve it,” I noted. Now next week, after staying consistent with practicing procedures and expecting high achievement, I hope to say, “Yes! Let’s have some fun! We’ve worked hard all week.”

Staying consistent with practicing the classroom ways and holding my students to higher standards was rewarding for me this week because even though I was the “mean, bad guy,” (Oh, man! Hey! I’m not a man. Stop it!) my students quickly changed their behaviors to comply with those standards, and they even noticed improvements and received rewards! One student even said, “You’re giving us a compliment? (Yes!) Well, I’ll be good more often now!” It seemed like we were practicing too much before this week. I remembered that the first few weeks of school are rough, and teachers assume that practicing procedures a few times will be enough for the students. But just like fluency research states that students must read a text about 7 times to be fluent readers, students must also practice other tasks several times to succeed.  (Got some reading research in there!)

I found that sticking to my plan, and “sticking to my guns” helped all of us. We were all calm, relaxed, and ready for the tasks at hand. Consistency pays off!

Have a great weekend!

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