Sunday, January 5, 2014

Happy New Year - 2014 starts with me teaching my 27 4th graders!

My alarm is set for 5:23am and once it goes off tomorrow, I'm back in the classroom...

I have enjoyed my time off during the past 16 days of Winter Break. Two Sundays ago I was entering a Holland America Cruise boat with my family where we quickly removed our jeans and fleece sweatshirts and changed into our shorts and t-shirts to enjoy the 80 degree+ weather. Then we enjoyed all that was offered...the snorkeling, the sights in San Juan, the Pub trivia, the listening and dancing to the bands, the buy-one-get-2nd-cocktail-for-$1 happy hours and the around-the-clock meals that required no cooking on my part and no cleaning of dishes! I took time to read and nap and reflect. Then I returned to VA and started wearing fleece and my winter coat again. It even snowed and I got to shovel! Now, tomorrow, my 27 students will enter the room and we will begin learning together again. I'm ready...or as ready as I can possibly be...

My New Years Resolutions:
1. I WILL be better about the recordkeeping of my conferences, something upon reflecting, I realize I am bad at. I work hard to prepare a strong mini-lesson. I then move around the room, stopping to confer but I am really bad about documenting this practice. And if I really want to grow students' LA skills, I MUST. SO today as I do my homework, I will create some organizers to jumpstart me toward meeting this goal. And each Saturday in Jan. and Feb. I'll reflect on how it is going. If I can get it going, it WILL become a habit!!

2. I WILL seek out help...the RTI team to help me with a struggling student...the school counselor to help me with a student who is very disruptive due to his ADD behaviors....the district's math resource specialist to offer suggestions on how to best teach math...the school Reading TCRWP Units of Study....I am not afraid to ask for help and even though I have been a teacher in this district for 12 years and for a total of 20 years, I MUST seek out expert help...I MUST keep learning! I had many days from September to December 20 that included tears. But I do NOT need to do this work alone. I am humble enough to ask for ideas and help. So I will also note on my upcoming posts the ratio of tears to help!

3. I WILL empower my students to run the room even more...I started the year posting a TWEET of the DAY @MsDgrade4 (ask to follow us!) and I ended up tweeting 145 times and have 27 followers. I think this is a pretty good start! This week, we'll make a rotating schedule to name two students to compose a tweet at the end of the day to be posted. I'll also ask what other tasks the students think they should be doing to help our classroom function. It is THEIR room and THEIR learning and as 2014 begins, I want to start with an empowering attitude!!

4. I WILL teach a Fiction Writing Unit of Study. I spend New years Day reading The Arc of the Story by Calkins and Cruz and was getting annoyed as hours passed and I was still reading. This work is golden but so wordy! The good news is that I have taught fiction using the book in the 3-6 kit and many of the sessions are exactly the same so I am feeling prepared. I spent some time picking some fiction stories I have already sharing as read-alouds to revisit as mentor text. I have picked Ish and The Dot by Peter Reynolds, Fireflies by Julie Brickhoe, The Marble Champ by Gary Soto, and Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems. I plan to have the students co-construct an anchor chart with me using these fiction headers: Character - Wanted - But - So - In the End - Lesson Learned. This close work will help them as they start to create their own fiction story!

It was suggested to have the students do a personal narrative on-demand which I have planned for tomorrow. Then I read this blog post:
Now I plan to be documenting their stamina as they write and then using these on-demands to closely plan teaching points that match my writers. I actually observed for an hour in Kristi's K class as a former colleague, Grace, was her intern this fall and when I attended the TCRPS Saturday Reunion, Grace arranged for me to visit for the LA block. I was amazed at how great K teaching is also great teaching at any grade and learned so much that hour as well as reading this blog post today!

In the spirit of learning (#2) I add: I WILL take time to read blogs of great educators to learn from them!

5. I WILL teach a Narrative Nonfiction using Biographies Reading Unit of Study. As soon as the public library opens today, I plan to go checkout TONS of biographs!! The Book 2: Navigating Nonfiction book will be my teacher's guide. I have not taught this unit before but as I skimmed through the sessions, I see it will mesh nicely with the fiction writing unit and will keep all of us reading strong as the new year begins!

I like being a teacher...September is a new beginning. Then in Dec, you get a break and then January is another new beginning. After lots of resting and reflecting, I'm ready to make the most of this 2nd new beginning!! Come to think of it, the 2nd quarter ends at the end of the January, giving me one more new beginning! All these new beginnings takes the pressure off of having to get it all in place right now!!

Here's to great learning in 2014!!

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