Saturday, February 22, 2014

2014 - Week 7: I taught for 5 days!

I taught (finally) for 5 days...well, Tuesday we had a 2 hour delay but finally we were back at school each day this week and I was back to teaching Reading Workshop and Writing Workshop and it felt like we had a routine.

This has definitely been a strange winter with lots of snow days or delyas due to cold and snow.

What do I still need to get better at?    The arrival and the dismissal.
Reflecting on this time today, I think, as a class, we need to descide on ways it can be better. I also think this class (and maybe students in general) do well when they have a To Do list and then the choice of what to complete in what order that they choose. I am thinking maybe a few things can be chosen from in the morning and at dismissal time. Also, maybe I know what needs to get done but maybe I haven't been explicit enough. So I need to be.

Despite the missed days, our Biography Unit of Study is over and tomorrow I plan to get LOTS of historical fiction picture books out of the library. March is going to be time to learn how to read historical fiction well!!

I scheduled a Parent Breakfast for Friday, March 7th and we need to have all of our realistic fiction stories published by then. I think this is doable but still lots of revising and editting needs to be completed.

Why do I want the parents to come in?
Some asked at a PTA meeting about the use of computers and seemed concerned. I want them to have the chance to come in and see what we have PRODUCED using the computer. I made a movie that had kids telling all the steps we did to make a nonfiction e-book on a topic of our choice.
  1. We read online nonfiction books on MyOn and took boxes and bullet notes to record what we were learning by reading nonfiction.
  2. We used a google apps presentation to make at least 6 pages in our e-book to share at least three big ideas about the topic of our choice. We included a title page, a table of contents, at least three topic pages, and a glossary.
  3. We learned how to insert videos and pictures to make it visually appealing. Our goal - when a person finishes reading our e-book, they will say, "Thank you. I learned a lot!" (This was a comment I heard an NPR reporter say after interviewing a scientist that I shared with the class.)

We also PRODUCED a typed realistic fiction story authored by each student!

We also PRODUCED a POSTER ADVERTISEMENT to encourage others to read our favorite Biography that we read during our Biography Unit of Study.

ALL this will be hanging up to "show-off" to the parents to help them SEE how the computer is a powerful tool that can be used to produce strong work. While at TCRWP Reunion Saturday, I heard Staff Developer, Cornelius Minor, talk about how research shows that we are either going to be a producer or a consumer of technology. Those that learn how to produce with technology will GO FAR in life. I don't want my students to just use a computer to play a game. I want them to know how to write the code to make the game and then make lots of money!! I can angle my teaching with a computer to this end. And I want these nervous, concerned parents to hear my rational and to see the things we produce with our computer. When these parents raised this issue, I tweeted Cornelius to ask his advise. His reply tweet: Invite those nervouse mom 2 ur class 2 see how you run things OR make them a podcast.

SO I have a date on the calendar and I have 2 weeks to ensure all the students have their online assignments done and a movie (instead of a podcast) to show as we kick-off our Breakfast Visit!

WRITING CHALLENGE: I decided to challenge myself in March and participate in the TWO WRITING TEACHERS writing write a Slice of Life (or a small moment) every day in March and post it online. I decided I will tell my students about the challenge this week. We'll make a chart and every small moment story we all write in March can be added to our class graph. My goal is to have my line of the graph reach 31 and who knows, maybe as a challenge, some of my friends will also reach 31. I think it will be a nice focus as in March we are doing a Unit of Study on Research Writing. To include a small moment challenge will help us to write in many ways in March. Then on Monday, March 31st, we will have an ORANGE PARTY!! We can eat oranges and share a small moment, a slice of our life, at the party!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

2014 - Week 6: teach for 3 days...then snow

I guess I can post my weekly update now, on a Thursday, as I am pretty sure my work week is done. I went to bed knowing that school was cancelled for Thursday and since at least a foot of snow fell over night, I am pretty sure, it will be announced soon that school is canceled for Friday, too.

Three Pluses for this 3-day week:
1. Daily we had Morning Meeting and we are all having fun! It does take up some time but time I am willing to use and I'll just figure out a way to teach Social Studies quicker.

2. I knew snow was coming so Tuesday from 1-3pm, I told the class that I would NOT be doing any mini-lessons. Instead, they needed to work on their: Reading Biography Project  - reading at least 8 picutre book biographies, logging them, charting the Somebody-Wanted-But-So info for each book and then to make a persuasive Poster of one biography to encourage others to read that biography  Writing Realistic Fiction Story - using google apps, they were to type each scene as a draft. Then go back, reread to revise for setting, diologue, inner feeling and action. At about the midway point, all were getting antsy so I had them talk to a partner about what they had accomplished so far. Then we got back to work. I was able to conference with ALL students to push them further in their reading and writing. And now, on my snow days, I can view their work on my google drive. Tuesday afternoon was very productive for all of us.

3. I had a BIG ah-ha with one student - I needed to document behaviors I observe with one student as his parents recommended him to enter our district's Advanced Academics Program for the Gifted and Talented. I was given a list of possible stems to use to help with my documentation. One was "Outside of school, the student...." So I asked  and this student responded by saying, "I started playing in a weekly Chess Club in 1st grade." When I asked how good he is, he said, "I'm in the Top 20% " and I noted that our school club includes grades 1st-6th). I was impressed! He also does Marital Arts on Tue, Wed, Thur, Sat and Sun and two months ago earned his brown belt. He's also done this since 1st grade and has moved from no sash to brown and now is aiming for red, then black. I was impressed again! This four minute conversation with this student showed me the importance of just talking with a student. I know this is SO important, not just to recommend him for a program but to understand him as a whole student in my classroom. Now I can be a bit more understanding when Friday homework isn't finished - he had Martial Arts and Chess after school. And I can be proud of all he does, inside and outside of the classroom.

My ah-ha is reflecting on why I hadn't asked him and all the students in my class what they do outside of school? We started sharing some in September, finding out what their whole life is like. Duh - I know it is important to know my students...yet, it is February 13th and just yesterday, I finally took time (because of a form I had to fill out for my AAP meeting) to know this boy. I pledge NOW to have this four minute conversation with ALL my students in Feb (once the snow melts and I can teach again!) and then next year in September. I know this but then life gets in the way and it didn't happen this year. I will make it happen. I am these kids ONLY teacher this year. The least I can do is talk to them and get to know them completely.

Friday, February 7, 2014

2014 - Week 5: feeling weary on a Friday

Why do I feel so weary?
Monday I was fighting a cold that lasted most of the week. The regular 3am coughing fits might have something to do with my tired feeling. Another 2-hour delay on Wed and the class' response to the lack of a routine at school is another factor. The extra time spent completing a referral for my most struggling student, another for my most unfocused student, and then another two forms plus work samples as evidence that two of my students excel and should be considered for the Advanced Academics Program in my district (called GT in other areas) is a third reason.

* I gave out Book Club books on Monday and today they met and discussed and I was so proud of their conversations!!
* I finally figured out WHO can help me at my school - the SpEd teacher helped me with the referral, the AP helped connect me to the counselor who shared a behavior plan to help my unfocused friend. The AAP teacher shared great tips to complete the AAP paperwork. The RT continues to give me support and a listening ear.

This job is too hard to do when you feel alone. It takes SO many to help all kids in a school reach their potential. I'm starting to feel more supported. I need to remember that the new teacher next year isn't going to know what to ask, just like I didn't know what to ask this year. I need to remember to offer support before they would start to feel overwhelmed.

* Our Realistic Fiction Unit is going well!! Also, I'm going to grade their nonfiction e-books this weekend. I want to invite the parents in to see these and possibly get a few kids to make a "documentary" explaining HOW we made them. I hope to pull this will just take a bit of time! I especially want to do this as I have a few nervous parents in the room wondering about the use of the laptops. I am determined to show them how my emphasis is on using the computer to produce and how important this is for their child.

Low Points?
*The management of my 27 friends....

But day by day, it does improve. It just makes me weary...TGIF!
I definitely could not do this job without a weekend break each week!