Friday, September 19, 2014

4 weeks into the school year!!

My goal is to write weekly but I have a good excuse for missing last week. My Anne was getting ready to leave for a year job as a teaching assistant in a French ES and much of the weekend was spent helping her (which now I can type that she has successfully arrived in Chambery, France!!). Then I worked late Mon-Wednesday to leave lesson plans so I could join Brian on his conference trip La Jolla, CA. So now, as I relax in a truly beautiful spot in the world, I have time to reflect on my first 4 weeks of teaching as a 5th grade writing teacher.

I know I love my situation this year, but why? I saw a graphic of ingredients for great teaching and it included 3 things: knowing content, engagement with students and ___ ( blanking on 3rd part of graph right now?). But I do know that I am confident every day because I know and love teaching writing. And being in a school that follows a responsive classroom management approach gives me the structure to have kids engaged. They are happy after we play a game or do morning meeting. I love my situation because I feel successful at it. Sure, it isn't all perfect but I feel safe to teach and learn with my students and staff while sharing a content I've become good at teaching!!

I'm proud of my 5th grade writers. Last Thursday, our 13th day of school, we held our first publishing party. Three of the days were on-demand assessment days and 10 were days the kids got to go through the writing process (immerse, generate, draft, revise, edit and publish). During a Symphony Share, all read aloud their favorite part, some the lead, some the heart, some the ending. All participated and together we celebrated with a candy treat and watching a film clip. Then I hung all the work in the hallway and Friday we reflected. All in 11 days!!

I think the nature of Writing Workshop makes my job so great. It is a defined process that requires time to work at it. But through planning I decide and share the tips I think they could use in their writing, teach the mini-lesson and then confer. We keep moving through the process and we know the publishing date from the start. The process is concrete and through my lessons involving mentor text I try to make it visible and doable. And after 4 weeks of teaching 80 students, I feel it is working.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Nine Days Down with Kids!

As Friday, the 9th day of school, was ending, I told my writing classes how proud I was of them! Already they had done so much writing work. They had many small moments drafted into their notebook. They had picked one that was meaningful to them. They had drafted that one story out of the notebook. Then Friday they worked on being a reviser - they revisited the lead and many tried writing multiple leads to pick the one that they liked the best. Many found the heart of their story and revisited it to stretch it out. They added actions, inner feeling and sound words. So exciting to be a guide to Writing Workshop in a school where the kids have been learning in a workshop for their entire elementary experience. Now, as 5th graders, they respond so well to my guidance. I can't wait to go to work on Monday! I'll guide them to write a strong ending and edit and then publish with a celebration!

My co-teacher, who joins we three days out of six, brainstormed with me how the publishing party might go. I want to have a Symphony Share. But I really didn't want to "make" them take their messy draft and have to rewrite it to hang on the bulletin board. That task can cause some to hate writing. Together we decided that we'd let each student rewrite just their favorite part - maybe the lead, maybe the heart of the story, maybe the ending. And THIS will be made public on the bulletin boards! It is only 9:30am on a Sat and I have the last revision and editing lesson planned and I'm excited to go to work on Monday...yet I still get to enjoy the rest of today and tomorrow.

So far this year feels so different to me. FINALLY, I am in a school that values all I know about the teaching of writing learned over the past 6 summers at TCRWP! Planning is fun because I can draw from my past stories written and past lessons taught. But can also add new mentor texts and new responses to how the kids are writing. I like having a co-teacher to brainstorm with.

I still need to figure out how to strategically conference with students.
I still need to figure out how to document and use my conference notes.
I still need to know all 80 kid's names!

But for now, I'm going to celebrate the fact that I have found an amazing school where I get to confidently teach with a smart community of students, teachers, and parents.

And I got paid yesterday!!!
Life is good!