Saturday, March 29, 2014

April begins on Tuesday!

Yikes...the last post I made was on Saturday, March 8th.

Yet I have reflected LOTS in March, just not on THIS blog. I participated in the Two Writing Teacher's March Slice of Life Challenge. I wrote EVERY DAY (so far...just tomorrow and Monday to go) in March and daily made 3 comments to others' writing.

I guess that writing on that blog I created -
kept me from my regular Saturday reflecting on this blog.

Lots has happened in March which I'll list here in no particular order:
1. I'm getting a better handle on a few disruptive students in my room. For one a behavior plan is working well. For another, time outs are working. As the 3rd quarter ends this coming Friday, I plan to call a few parents in to have a few discussions. I know SO much more now than I did back in September about managing behaviors. Part of me just wants a chance to have a "do over" but on we go. Personally, I know next year I will be more confident in how I help to guide behaviors and engagement in my classroom.

2. Teaching Historical Fiction is fun!! Using the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, I taught many of the mini-lessons. I saw GREAT power in having the kids read the HF picture book. Then reading NF related to the HF topic. Then rereading to make a story timeline and a parallel timeline of the history at that time. Some told me they couldn't read about times they have no background knowedge. Instead, I saw my students motivated to read NF to fill in the gaps so they could understand the book better.

3. Reading NF is hard and my students felt this. This opportunity helped me to emphaisze that sometimes in 4th , 5th, 6th, MS and HS reading WILL be hard. But that is when they need to step it up to do the hard work. I also saw many feeling successful when they did do this hard work!

4. I'm getting better at teaching math! I wish I could start the year over. I'll do it so much better next year!! Maybe it takes the year to see the WHOLE curriculum. Now that I have, my pacing and my methods will be much better.

5. Just April, May and June!! I want to make the BEST of this last quarter!! I wish I could do over this whole year as I can see so many places I could have done better but I still have 3 months and I WILL make the most of them!!!!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

It's March!

March got off to a slow start...another short week dur to weather. No school Monday and Tuesday and then Wed was a 2-hr delay. Despite the limited time in my classroom, I have many successes to highlight!

Wed's Close Read of Stray by Cynthia Rylant
The Reading Teacher came in to lead us in an argument discussion of this story. The debate would be: Doris should keep the dog VS Doris should not keep the dog. She paused after reading the first two paragraphs and asked the kids to jot down what they were thinking. Both her and I shared a think-aloud. Then a hand was raised and waving at us and I called on this student.

"I have a comment. The line that reads "its ears tucked, its tail between its legs, shivering." I think the author is showing us that the dog is scared."

WOW! This child just made a HUGE transfer from what we were learning while writing realistic ficiton in Writing Workshop to now reading a story. I smiled and thought to myself, "Yes, these kids are getting it!!"

27 Students -  27 Realistic Fiction Stories, 27 Social Studies Guess Who Posters, 27 Biography Posters, 27 Nonficition eBooks
During January and February, 2014, we've had MANY snow days, as well as, student absences due to sickness. That, compounded with the fact that all students work at different paces and all have different abilities, trying to guide a group of 27 can be challenging. Invites were already sent out and parents were coming in to see our work on Friday. So when we FINALLY got to school Wednesday, MUCH needed to be completed!! We spent Wed afternoon making it happen. Pages were printed; Final scenes were typed. Work was hung. One student helped another who had been absent. I helped scribe for the student having trouble getting all the ideas on the page. Thursday afternoon, we worked nonstop again. We were on a deadline. It was my goal that ALL 27 students would have 4 products to share on Friday morning. And at 3pm on Thursday, because of class teamwork, we were ready for our visitors!!

Breakfast Browsing
The cinnomon buns were on the plate, my mom arrived to be a "mom" for any students who didn't have a family member to share with, computers were fired up. The classroom was ready. At 8am, the students started to stroll in with a mom, some with both mom and dad, a few grandmas and one big sister. Only four had no guest but my mom, the principal and the reading teacher filled in. The students' job was to share our work and the visitors' job was to learn LOTS from us. I even gave them a handout so they could jot down all that they learned. We shared a video we made explaining HOW we used our laptop to research a topic we wanted to be an expert on. Our fiction story was printed out on our desk. The back wall had Guess Who Posters related to VA History facts on it with Lift the Flaps to reveal the answer. Our Biography Persuasive Posters hung in the hallway. Until 9:10am browsing occurrred!! I stood and smiled and thought that this is truly the job of a teacher - to empower her students to teach others! This was happening today!! I am SO glad we held a Browsing Breakfast on the Friday morning of another short week of school. Despite the crazy winter, we have learned LOTS in Room 121 and today our guests were learning from us!!

Fan Mail
I asked the visitors, if time permitted, would they write to us and tell us what they learned. I told them it would be like "Fan Mail" and it would motivate us to keep reading and writing. Within 2 hours of our event on Friday, we had received one card and 3 emails. Just now I looked and 2 more emails have arrived. This is such great feedback for the kids. It is also feedback for me.

As spring begins, I am motivated to keep up all this hard work. I have the rest of March and then 3 more months (only). I need to make the most of it!! I will!!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

2014 - Week 8 and Feb comes to an end

Happy March 1st.
I just posted my 1st of (hopefully) 31 small moment SOL (slice of life) stories to: I am a bit worried about the time committment but I watched today and saw that in 30 minutes, I posted what I had typed last night and then read and commented on 3 other bloggers' posts. I think this is a doable challenge and definitely beneficial!!

Better Transitions:
I asked the kids if they could write and make suggestions as to how we could have better transitions. Duh! They had some good ideas and we implemented 3 of them.
1) I will set a timer during the beginning of a transition and then say nothing until it goes off. I'll admit, I was tell all to transition and then literally 30 seconds later being annoyed that they were not done. I need to give them time and after starting to do this on Thur and Fri, I was seeing a difference, mostly in me remaining calm!
2) When moving in the halls of the school, be in a line of boy-girl-boy-girl; We started this on Thur and finally, we seem to be able to walk to the cafeteria in a quiet, straight line!
3) Tranitional Helper Job - we have added 2 people whose job it will be to help out during transitions. They went around and restated that it is time to transition and to do whatever, be it get out our writing workshop folders or stack our chairs at the end of the day. Now three people and not just me are offering friendly reminders.
So far, so good! I am reminded again of the value of using the Responsive Classroom Approach. For weeks, we have begun the day with a fun greeting. On Wed, when transitions were still frustrating me, I simply ask them to write me their suggestions. ALL TOGETHER, we are managing our class!

New dilemma...a mom told me how her child was upset on Friday because when her child asked another if he could join "the cool group", the cool group leader said he'd let him know on Monday. Then on Monday, this child said he didn't want to go to school but of course, he did. Then he came home Monday all happy because the "cool kid" said he didn't have to be "part of the weirdo group but could be part of the cool group." My dilemma - I had NO IDEA this kind of discussion was occurring in my classroom. I was aware, that overall, I was not feeling like these kids showed lots of empathy and they couldn't see how their actions caused others to feel. To help with this, I decided to read-aloud Wonder. Now I think I really need steer the discussions toward the idea of including and excluding. Boy, teaching is SO much more than just teaching content! SO much more...