Friday, April 25, 2014

Back at it after Spring Break!

I'll admit. I just checked to see if it has really just been one full week back at school after Spring Break. It feels much longer than just 5 days since I was on Spring Break. But it has been a fun, busy week!

Monday we got back to writing poetry! I had followed Chris Lehman over break doing a google-hangout on Poetry. I decided to just showed 5 minutes of his session #2 to my students as the mini-lesson. The teaching point is that we observe an object closely. Then write a descriptive paragraph that says all you observed. Then you revise it into a poem - add line breaks, eliminate words not needed. I didn't have strawberries but I had a basket of beanie babies and it worked fabulously. My favorite poem was Quint's:

Two black dots,
in a blizzard of snow,
feels very soft, like a small, white pillow.
one pink triangle,right above the mouth,
built just for sniffing,
north, west, east, south.

Tuesday was EARTH DAY! Our school is really big into recycling, reusing, and upcycling. For homework, I asked them to write a small moment, an essay, a poem or draw a picture to show how they take care of the earth. I filmed my lesson on Tuesday needed for an apllication I am completing. I chose to teach the kids about Langston Hughes. I had them picture the broken-winged bird in Dreams. Then to think about why he chose this image to compare to losing a dream. We had a strong class conversation. Then I asked them to read stanza two alone, visualize the barren, frozen field and ask why Langston Hughes chose this image. I went table by table, having  a small-group discussion of stanza two. I loved the discussion!!

Wed was Judith Viorst and as a class, we co-constructed our own poem stating what we would do IF WE WERE IN CHARGE OF THE WORLD.

Thursday we did a lesson that Ralph Fletcher taught me while he gave his keynote Speech at TCRWP August 2013 Summer Writing Institute. After I shared his poem:

The Good Old Times by Ralph Fletcher
Sometimes I remember
the good old days,

sitting on the kitchen floor
with my brothers and sister,

each on our own square
of cool linoleum.

I’m fresh from the bath,
wearing baseball pajamas.

Mom gives us a cup of milk,
two cookies, a kiss goodnight,

I still can’t imagine
anything better than that.

Then I had them write (just as Ralph had me do at the Institute) the first 2 lines at the top of their notebook page and the last 2 lines on the bottom of the page. I set the timer and we wrote for 5 minutes. WOW. Lots of great poems were drafted using this format!!

I'm looking foward to Monday when we remove all the poems from our classroom wall window and ask the kids to reflect on their work and to create their own Poetry Anthology! I wouldn't stop but the books are due back at the library and I need to begin the test prep will be May 20th before I know it!

It felt great to do lots of small group work this week! My students really makes it hard to do small group work but I'm doing to keep trying. Plus, the Reading Teacher will be helping some of the kids next week too. The ESOL teacher plans to help me on Tue and Thur, too.

So now it is Friday night. It's been a busy, fun week! Tomorrow I'm heading to C'ville to watch my daughter's Shakespeare on the Lawn performance. Then do planning and maybe lawn work on Sunday (I'm excited - I got the lawn mower fixed over break!). It's a fun feeling knowing the school year is winding down! And I am feeling very, very confident. I am so glad I returned to the classroom!!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

I'm on Spring Break!!

Last Sunday I blogged:
This week we will change seats, clean the room well, set goals for the 4th quarter, enjoy poetry, and finish our Civil War unit in Social Studies!  I can successfully say that THIS all got done and we enjoyed 2 school assemblies, too!

I am AMAZED at my poets!! On Sunday, I looked at my shared google files and 2 boys, Ryan and Will, had shared poems they wrote with me. Ryan's was a Baseball List poem inspired by Douglas Florian's What I Love About Winter. 
steal the base
hit the ball
run around and do it all
home run
no matter what
you're having fun

The other was a poem about our trip to the White House by Will.
White House
I walk into the big white house
thinking what I’ll see
the oval office?
maybe but probably not
many rooms from the past years
Will I get to see the president's room?
no siree.
maybe even bo the dog?
I don't think so
but so very close.
maybe tall, Mrs.Obama?
no but so so very close.
Will I get to see the man, Mr.Obama
you got it right
I don’t know about you
but that is White House Luck
Both boys looked closely and felt deeply about their topic. They used precise words and line breaks. As I read these poems, I was energized to plan out my Monday poetry lesson!! These 2 poems would be my mentor text, along with Shape Poems by J. Patrick Lewis. On Sunday, I went to Staples and got poster board to make my anchor charts. I looked through my notes and remembered that the Chartchum ladies had a blog posting about poetry anchor charts which I reread and created my anchor charts modeled on their great advise -

I'll admit that I haven't been keeping up with having strong anchor charts because I don't have any teammate peer-pressure to do it. Sadly, I am starting to become what I am around - teammates who are good teachers but just not good teachers of reading and writing workshop.

I then found ALL the poetry links I used to share with teachers when I was their Reading Teacher. I added all the links to our class blackboard site. The ReadWriteThink shape poem creator and Diamonte creator and links to Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, Mary Ann Hoberman, and J. Patrick Lewis. I made an anchor chart listing our poetry agenda:  read and log poems read, type a poem using google apps or use an online link to create a poem. The windowsill was filled with poetry books and I was refilled with my excitement to teach poetry during workshop this week!!

I needed Ryan and Will to show me that we are poets. If these two boys could write these poems, I believed ALL could write amazing poems if only I take the time to plan out my mini-lessons well and have anchor charts up as reminders to build their independence. Even if my teammates aren't pushing me to do workshop work, I am grateful that I am pausing to listen to my students and I'm letting them be my "peer-pressure"!

Monday was AMAZING!!!  During the minilesson, I taught that Poets use precise words - specific nouns, vivid verbs, and descriptive adjectives - when writing poems (a lesson from Lucy's Units of Study for Teaching Writing). I demonstrated this by sharing Ryan and WIll's poems and J. Patrick Lewis' baseball shape poems. Then I showed them the ReadWriteThink website which makes it easy to make a shape poem. Then I sent them off to read and write poetry. Ryan and Will placed their poems on our classroom window. I told the class that I hoped we could all add at least one poem to the window, too. We quickly reached that goal as you can see here. I took this photo at the end of the day on Monday!

On Thursday, I shared a poem written by Georgia Heard called Recipe for Writing an Autumn Poem. Following her recipe format, we co-wrote this poem together:
Recipe for Writing a Reading Workshop Poem
by Room 121; Inspired by Georgia Heard
One teaspoon of words we read and write
One tablespoon of reading logs
One cup of mini-lessons
One pint of books we hold and read online
One quart of quiet
One gallon of creativity and imagination
Then yesterday, the Friday before Spring Break, Katherine wrote this poem herself:
A Recipe for Spring Break
One teaspoon of no homework
One tablespoon of road trips
One cup of friends
One pint of sleepovers
One quart of food
One gallon of fun!

I will admit, I was becoming a lazy workshop teacher but my students kicked me into gear again! For this I am grateful. I will enjoy my Spring Break week but I know I will be spending time thinking about how to make the most of the final quarter of 4th grade. I need to stay strong in my planning of lessons. I need to make the steps visible through anchor charts so my students can see what they can do. I need to keep conferring, keep encouraging, keep teaching. I need to keep listening. There is still LOTS to teach!!

Final Reflection: Friday was such a peaceful day! Maybe we all knew we were getting a break. Maybe it was easier because 5 kids were absent and with only 22 in the room, it is naturally more peaceful. I still taught and we took time to clean and get new seats and we did have a 30 minute playtime at the end of the day. But I was calm all day. No shouting to get over the noise. I do think I am more confident in my teaching ability. I do think I have helped many to make good choices so less shouting is required. I do think we are a more helpful community. I loved feeling relaxed all day.

I do want to remain a classroom teacher. I do want to keep learning how to get better at it. Maybe I can get to the calm-state next year before the end of 3rd quarter!!

Now I plan to have a "Gallon of fun" for the week and will blog again the end of April!
Happy Spring Break!!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

3 qrts down....1 to go!

This was a fun last week of the 3rd quarter!

Monday we had an ORANGE party to celebrate that I wrote for 31 days in March and that ALL my students wrote at least 1 small moment. We sat in groups of 4 and listened to one writer read their story and the others listened and offered a compliment. Then all ate a clementine slice. We all enjoyed sharing our stories and giving postive feedback, a process that we all understand better now is what writers need.

Wednesday we took a fieldtrip to the White House. I was a bit nervous because, due to security, we could not take parent chaperones. So it was 160 4th graders, on 3 buses, with 8 adults. I knew the tour would be fine but then the other teachers wanted us to walk to the Mall and eat lunch and I was nervous about the long walk and limited bathrooms and crossing Constitution Avenue. But now looking back, it all worked OK. And the highlihgt was that while in the White House, the President's helicopter landed and through the window, we saw President Obama board it to fly, we were told, to give a speech in Michigan. VERY COOL!!

When we returned to school, I had them write a small moment about the fieldtrip and I was so proud of them. All started with a strong lead. All included action and special details. All wrote at least half a page and many filled the page. We immediately added this writing to our sleeve in the hallway, covering our Biography Advertisement that had been hanging for a few weeks. Now the school can stop and read about our fieldtrip!

April started and so did my Poetry Unit! I will admit. I never liked poetry. It never made sense to me as a child in school. I didn't get what my teachers meant when they would explain what a poem meant. I have painful memories of reading The Wasteland by T.S. Eliott in High School. But as an elementary school teacher, I have come to LOVE poetry because I read the poems of Jack Prelutsky, Shel Silverstein, Mary Ann Hoberman, Nikki Grimes, Judith Viorst, Valerie Worth, and Douglas Florian.

To prepare my classroom, I printed out the faces of all the poets I listed above and a few more - 12 in all - a dozen poets! Under their picture, I placed their poetry books in a pile! And I made a Poetry Log that listed each poet and a box to tally each poem we read by that poet. I told the kids we would try to read at least 5 poems by each poet. The immersion in reading poetry is going GREAT!! We are sitting and reading and enjoying poetry and it is fun!! This coming week I'll teach mini-lessons to get us writing poetry!

Finally, I am excited to just have 5 days and then a week break! I was to have this Monday off to work on the 3rd quarter report cards but due to all the snow days, Monday is now a school day. So I spent from 8am - 2:30pm yesterday at Starbucks inputting my 3rd quarter grades. It really did take that long to add the grades and comments electronically for 27 students. It is pretty crazy how much time it takes outside of the classroom to be a teacher! Of well, report cards done.

This week we will change seats, clean the room well, set goals for the 4th quarter, enjoy poetry, and finish our Civil War unit in Social Studies!

Looking Ahead:
We will have 20 days and then take the Virginia State Standards of Learning (SOL) assessments in reading, math and VA history. I guess we are ready!?!