Saturday, June 13, 2015

Writing Portfolio Celebration!

My school has writing portfolios. Each year, favorite narrative, nonfiction and opinion writing pieces are placed in a brown, accordion folder. These folders are first added to in Kindergarten are then added to again and again, year after year through 5th grade.

As a 5th grade writing teacher, it was such a treat to give out these Writing Portfolios to the 5th graders for their final addition and final reflection. For many, they have been at my school since Kindergarten and they received a quite full, accordion folder! First, I gave them 20 minutes just to look back and enjoy all their pieces. Here's a video showing their pure joy of seeing all that they had written over the past 6 years:  

Then to celebrate, I asked them to pick ONE piece. Together we listened as they completed these sentences: I picked a piece of writing that I wrote in ______ grade.
I picked it because ___________.

What an amazing class period!!

I will admit that keeping writing portfolios is a big task for a school of 700 students. It is time-consuming to keep these portfolios and costly to purchase. Class time is needed to pick and get the pieces into the folders. Then time, as well as physical space, is needed to store them over the summer. Then more time to redistribute them to the next year's teacher as a new school year begins. Plus, time to make new ones for new students to the school.

However, after seeing my 5th graders interacting with them as they end their time at my school, it is DEFINITELY time and money well-spent!!

Does your school keep writing portfolios? If not, think about starting. Sure, it is one more thing to spend time and funds on but I am convinced. It is worth the time!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

New Fav Day - Independent Writing Publishing Party!

I know Colleen Cruz has a new writing book out and I highly recommend that you get it and read it: The Unstoppable Writing Teacher

However, be sure to also read Independent Writing by Colleen Cruz
I did and then used it as my guide for a final, quarter-long homework assignment for my 5th grade writers.

This was my handout I created using Colleen as my guide:

After students told me the genre they wanted to write in, I made posters in the room, listing all their names and adding old anchor charts used earlier in the school year related to that genre. I teach four groups of 5th graders and now we all knew who else in the 5th grade was writing in the same genre as us and we had TIPS right in front of us to remind us of how to write well in this genre.

When it was time to pick a mentor, I conferred with those who were having trouble and offered suggestions. I made sure to bring in newspapers, comics, and cookbooks from home, as these were genres kids were also choosing.

Then I got out of the way!!

I allowed for Fridays to be class days to work on this project and was available for a conference but I did just get out of the way!!

Then June 1st came and projects were turned in. Some needed help to print their amazing work. so I helped. Some needed extra time on the 1st and 2nd during lunch to finish, so I gave it.

Then on Wednesday, June 3rd, we had the MOST amazing Independent Writing Publishing Party!!!!!

I teach 78 fifth graders so I sorted all 78 projects by genre into these groups:

I arranged the room to be table clusters without chairs and then added some chairs along the back wall only.

When classes arrived, we gathered on the carpet and I told them: "This room is filled with amazing writing work written by the entire 5th grade class. You have the class period to wander the room, that thanks to your writing has been transformed into more of a bookstore, just like Politics and Prose (our local Independent Bookstore)! Just like Politics and Prose, the writing is displayed by genre. Please feel free to read as many of the pieces as possible. If you pick up a piece of writing, you can go find a chair and sit and read. Then be sure to return it to the same place for others to find and enjoy. Try to get to every section of our bookstore today!"

Then for the next 40 minutes, we just READ!!!

I really felt like I got to spend four class periods at a bookstore. But instead of reading published authors, I was reading 5th graders writing in a genre they chose and passionately spent time writing! Wednesday, June 3rd is now my new favorite day as the Janney 5th grade writing teacher!!

Special thanks to Colleen Cruz and her book, Independent Writing. I followed your suggestions and the students chose a genre to write in and SOARED!!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Almost June 1st...15 more days of school

I did write my end of year LETTER to the students!
I did start report card comments.
I did start report card grades.
I did make a reflection sheet for students to use as they look back on ALL their writing this year.

And I had the students write a HAIKU about our school, Janney and then made them a Collection of Haiku booklet!! While the students worked independently on their independent project on Friday, I worked on ensuring ALL haiku poems were written and after school, I headed to the xerox machine to make 90 books!! I look forward to distributing them to the students on Monday. I am proud of this LAST published writing of our year!

Here are a few of the poems:

A Student Blossoms

I blossom like a

Flower planted in Janney's

Nurturing soil

- Sasha Code

Picture Day

Is my hair okay?

Is there spinach in my teeth?

SNAP! Oh well, too late

- Maija Lindy

Janney's Animals

Blue eggs in a tree

I've seen the chickens pecking

Strolled past the bee's comb

- Sydney Janssen

First Days

The first day of school

I'm feeling kind of nervous

New friends await me

- Ellie Bijeau

I trip and fall - pain

A stranger helps me up - thanks

I like Janney kids

-Matias Facchinato-Sitja

New sprouts were planted,

Now, they are large. They've grown.

We have grown as well.

- Oscar Ertman

It's so beautiful

A symphony of color

the Janney garden

-Hugo Filmer

Teachers, numerous

Experiences, millions

Friends, uncountable

-       Annie McLean

Bright-eyed and eager

Ready to explore the world

Thanks to Janney School

-Maya Landweber

Saturday, May 23, 2015

PARCC test is over...boring week as a teacher

At my school, I must proctor the giving of the PARCC test in a 4th grade classroom, while the 4th grade writing teacher gives the test to my homeroom students.

So on Monday, I went to my classroom and wrote the agenda on the board for my 5th graders, left out a handful of possible picture book read-alouds and the Monday activity the class was to work on.

Then I went to the 4th grade classroom and began setting out the computers and went to the office to receive my testing tickets and seal code. Once the students arrived, I got to WATCH them take their ELA PARCC test for 75 minutes. BORING.

Then the class went to specials and lunch and in the afternoon, I watch/guided them to do the independent assignment left for them. I ended the day on Monday, feeling exhausted and thankful I am not a substitute teacher every day. Too BORING. Also, very frustrating to not really know the kids, who they work well with, who distracts them. Obviously I discovered information about the kids quickly, but all very tiring.

Tuesday and Wednesday...more of the same with the students taking the 2-day Math PARCC.

Then on Thursday I returned to my 5th graders. Yet, it felt like it did after retrieving my own children after they spent a weekend with grandma. I called it deprogramming. All those behaviors grandma allowed, I didn't and I remember wondering if it was worth it to take time away from them. Thursday felt like a day of reminding the 5th graders how to act kindly and respectfully because time with another teacher seemed to change them into students who didn't remember any of our classroom community rules. Thursday was also a day for the 5th graders to pilot the Science PARCC test...90 minutes of watching them...BLAH...

Friday wasn't even a back to normal day. The morning was Science Fair share and a session with the counselor to practice opening a middle school lock. The afternoon was time for those that still hadn't opened that lock to open it and then their Human Growth and Development talk with the nurse (Girls) and PE teacher (boys). So a day of really just herding my students and no teaching. It was a double special day which meant a double planning day with my writing team. We took our meeting across the street to include lunch and had a great time reflecting on the year and thinking about the next year.

Now it is Memorial Day Weekend and 19 more days of school.
4 weeks.

We will finish up our Poetry Unit.
We will share our Independent Writing Projects.
We will go on a 3-day, 2-night camping trip (I wish I was more excited about this...)
We will prepare for the Promotion.

This weekend, I will begin to draft the final report card comments.
This weekend, I will write questions to guide our writing reflection.
This weekend, I will write the students a final letter of thanks for a great year.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

It's May....Finally fitting in a Poetry Unit of Study

Our Memoir unit ended the last Friday in April. The final On-Demands needed to be completed before PARCC. A week of science writing to support the 5th grade Science Fair occurred last week. Next week is the PARCC. Then in June, the 5th grade takes a 3-day camping trip. As I was planning for what to teach in May and June, Poetry seemed the best answer with all the interruptions. My workshop plan became to treat each day as a chance to immerse the students in a poet's writing, then time for them to draft. After PARCC, I'll provide time for them to choose at least one poem to revise, edit and publish. So far, fitting in poetry in this busy May/June time has worked out beautifully.

I didn't grow up loving poetry. In fact, thanks to high school, I only have bad memories associated with poetry, specifically related to The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot and The Red Wheelbarrel by William Carlos Williams. It wasn't until I read Love That Dog by Sharon Creech that finally I came to enjoy poetry. Its character, Jack, helped me to just enjoy the sound and look of poems and not feel stupid when I didn't get a poems meaning.

Now I enjoy teaching poetry to my students and sharing ways that have worked for me with colleagues. In fact a week ago Friday I presented to a group of teachers at our DC3 Share Conference. To prepare for that presentation, I gathered all the resources I have used over the years. I wrote about this HERE back in Dec, 2011 when teaching another group of colleagues.

At that time, J. Patrick Lewis was just named our National Children's Poet Laureate and knowing the job is for two years, I realized I hadn't kept up and I did not know who the current National Children's Poet Laureate was. I quickly googled and discovered Kenn Nesbitt. WOW! His website is FILLED with great resources. In fact, on Thursday, I just opened his Haiku Lesson Plan on the smartboard, read it to the class and then they spent 15 minutes writing amazing haiku poems! This website is now added to my growing list of great poetry sites.

Another great poetry unit addition is Chris Lehman. He now has a total of 6 videos  - 3 from last April and 3 more from this April. He runs a Poetry Workshop that is recorded and archived.
2014 Sessions found here
2015 Sessions found here

A final additional resource I discovered were the many additions to the ReadWriteThink website.
I knew about the shape poems - click here
Now they also have:

I also discovered a that poet, Helen Frost, had written a new picture book poem called:
I love ALL Helen's books written in verse. I think of her as a genius novel-prose writer!
Helen's website
We plan to have our 5th grades perform this poem, Sweep Up the Sun during our Promotion ceremony! I recommend read it and viewing the amazing photography by Rick Lieder as well.

I'm so glad I keep looking for resources to teach many great many great poems!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

It's May - time for EOY On-Demands

During the first week of school, I had my 5th graders do On-Demands across three school days. That is what TCRWP call it when you give students one class period to write in one class period showing all they know about a genre. One day was narrative, then essay, and finally informational.

Tuesday, I had the students write an informational on-demand.
I showed them this slide:
I placed the 5th grade information writing checklist out on tables for students to reference (from Pathways book by Lucy Calkins that we used this year).

As they wrote, I took these notes:
* When I offered my IEP students the choice of paper and pencil OR computer, all picked computer
* More reluctant writers wrote a How To...I wonder if I modeled enough for them how to more away from How To to now write All About.
* All 79 students were told on Monday they could bring in an article to reference as they wrote and 5 did.
* My most struggling writer who was new to our school and writing workshop spent 5 minutes orally practicing what he could write about. He picked Kinds of Bikes and then he spent 40 minutes writing a whole page, using headings and only one trip to the bathroom. Hurrah!! I gave him a high-five as he handed it in and told him how proud I was of his writing. (Back in September, he wrote 1 sentence).
* I noticed lots chose to write an All About a sport they know or an animal they have written about before or about the AMerican History topic they wrote about back in March.

I worry that these writers keep writing about the same nonfiction topic and aren't able to transfer their informational writing to a new topic.
 - maybe I don't model writing informational writing enough
 - maybe I don't encourage them to write about a NEW topic
    - we allow CHOICe but if they always choose the SAME topic, are they growing??
 - Maybe I need to read and write more informational writing myself. I'll admit, it is NOT my favorite. OR it is just not what I have practiced.

I WILL work on this so I can be a better teacher of informational writing!!!
My students are working on an independent writing project...I am going to do an independent project too and it WILL be an informational piece. I'll head to the library TODAY to get books to read and act as mentor text so I can write an informational piece!!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Memoir Publishing Party - SUCCESS!!

I won't deny that it was wonderful to have Spring Break last week and that it was a little hard to return to school after a week off.

Well, not quite a week. I actually spent the first weekend completing grades and report card comments. I clocked the time again and it was only 10 additional hours from the 20 spent last Advisory. How did I cut the time in half? From the start of Advisory 3, I ONLY kept electronic notes! It was much easier to cut and paste since I recorded my observations/comments all quarter long electronically in a spreadsheet. Technology can cause me to work smarter and not harder!

Once back on Monday, I did an editing revision lesson based on seeing Mary Ehrenworth at TCRWP October, 2014 Saturday Reunion give a workshop on punctuation.

I used her slide:
Then I asked a student if I could use a part of his hockey writing and he agreed:

The take-away for the kids after our discussion of these 2 slides was that when we edit, we make sure to use punctuation and capital letters. But, now as 5th graders, we can step it up and try out different kinds of punctuation (like Mary did) and also try out different ways to vary our sentences to create a pace (like the 5th grader did).

We spent Tuesday finishing our annotations and printing another copy to hold and read from for the Publishing Party and then one annotated in the hallway.

Wednesday was Earth Day so we had only 30 minute periods due to our Walking Fieldtrip to pick up trash at the park in the neighborhood. I tried something new. I asked the students to reflect on their memoir and to specifically think about what they know they really worked on in structure, development AND conventions. Prior goal-settings, I had them pick ONE skill from any of the three areas and place their name ONCE on the classboard. This time I gave them 3 strips to write their name on and pick the 3 areas they were proud of for working on in this piece.
(The 1st period class is green, 2nd - blue, 3rd - red and 4th - orange. I am purple!)

I collected their memoirs and realized I needed to publish these as a class collection. They had worked so hard to combine all they knew about narrative writing and essay writing and had written amazing memoirs. I stayed Wednesday late and after the faculty meeting, I got the copiers going! After making a cover, I ran 30 copies of each for my four classes. The collections were btwn 30-40 pages each so I bought a stapler that can staple 60 pages and by Thursday night, I had a memoir book to distribute to each 5th grader at the publishing party.
I took this picture to show that thanks to Lucy's book, Shaping Text
four new memoir collections exist!!

On Thursday, we practiced for Friday by reading it aloud with a partner. Our partner was to listen and ensure that we used expression and used a loud enough voice. Then the listener practiced asking questions using the questioning cards. I modeled this first by reading my memoir with LOTS of expression and answering the questions from the comment cards politely.
I also asked who thought they would have a parent or grandparent come. I spent Thursday night (after stapling was done) making groups. I wanted to group the kids into 6 groups - 4 in the classroom spend out and then 2 groups in the hallway so we would be spread out and could hear the reader. And I wanted to ensure parents would be with each group. I prepared this handout for the parents because I wanted them to share a memory during the Publishing Party, too.
Friday was my favorite celebration yet!! WHY?
* I loved that there was time for each kid to read their meaningful memoir aloud.
* I love that so many parents/grandparents came (even my sister and mom came!)
* I love that the adults shared meaningful memories with their table group with many writing 6-word memoirs!
* I loved hearing students and parents say so many specific comments about how a writer crafted their memoir.
* I loved all the smiles each student reader had after they finished reading and sat and listened to their table group talk about their writing.
* I loved that the table groups started to sound a bit like a book club discussion...and the "book" was something written by one of my powerful!!