Saturday, November 29, 2014

Looking back to Thanksgiving week and forward to December!

I am so grateful that I work in a school that takes time to celebrate all we can be thankful for. At Jamboree this week, kids could come to the microphone and say what they are thankful for..."school, family, the chickens, the playground, their teachers." At Tuesdays staff meeting, we spent over 30 minutes sharing anything we are thankful for. Our principal said, "This will be much like a Quaker Meeting. Feel free to stand and say what you are thankful for." Despite the fact that it was Tuesday, 3:30pm, she just let it go and for over 30 minutes people shared. I loved being able to say how much I appreciate the co-teaching model and my co-teacher especially. What a wonderful way to build and honor a community! Then Wednesday was just too much fun!! We had a PAW PRINT celebration - kids get "paw prints" as we are the Janney Jaguars and once the school earns a good amount (and more honestly, once it is a day we can take 2 hours to celebrate), we hold a celebration. Wed was my first!! I loved it. First, we went to the gym and could choose one of these activities - dance party in Art room, quiet reading in library, small games in atrium or ball game in gym. Then we went to our classrooms and my students created out of paper a turkey costume for me to wear during the turkey derby. Such great collaboration and creativity! Then we went to the cafeteria to have hot chocolate and play Heads-Up 7-Up. So fun and simple!! After the 3 activities, we returned to the classroom to "dress me"!! (I will have to add pictures!)

The culmination of the day was The Turkey Derby!! I was on a team with my 2nd grade Book Buddy and the ESL teacher. I ran the length of the gym, then Lucy hopped the length back and then our anchor was Brianne on a scooter. We did not win our heat but boy, did we look SWAG! (the name given to us by the kids was Swaggest Turkeys!!) In the end we won the award for being the Most Caffeinated Turkeys!!

So fun. So thankful to be a teacher at Janney ES!

In Writing Workshop, all printed their draft essays stating that chocolate milk should / should not be served at school on Tuesday at the end of class. It's Saturday and I've read 2 classes so far and will finished the rest tonight. I now have a good conference plan (my first, really!) and I was able to add comments to each essay so independently, the kids can revise and edit.

Then I read more of the Unit of Study for Research Based Argument Essay and I have a fun celebration planned!!! I got the movie The Great Debaters as suggested and after they write a final essay of their choice, we will reflect and celebrate with that movie.

Then I have the week before Winter Break to introduce and help the kids decide on a nonfiction topic to write about that is related to their Social Studies learning. How crazy that I am planned until Winter Break!!!

So fun. So thankful to JUST teach 5th Grade Writing Workshop!!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

November 23 - 3 days until Thanksgiving Break!!

My goal for writing this blog is to post EVERY Saturday about the week I just finished teaching. Well, last Friday, I stayed at school until 8pm to completely add all the online report card grades into the computer system. Then, in my haste to finally leave school after being there for more than 12 hours, I forgot to pack my no post last week.

However, if I hadn't forgotten, I would have posted these pictures:

Using the Opinion Checklist in the new Pathways book by Lucy Calkins, all 78 fifth graders successfully set a WRITING GOAL to focus on as we go forward to write our next essay!!!!! As the teacher, this book gave me the language to help my students be self-reflective in order to pick a skill to work on under the 3 overarching parts of writing - structure, development and convention. SO FUN!!

I would have also commented on how wonderful my school is. Monday I was given the time to plan from 12:30-3:30pm with the coach and my co-writing teacher. First we tightened up the planning of the Opinion writing unit I had started. I brought the flash drafts the kids wrote after our debate work around Fly Away Home. All took a pile and noted what we noticed the students could do and could not do. Then we planned. DUH! I can honestly say that I know this is how I suppose to plan, using student work to drive my next steps but somehow it never worked this well before. Quickly, I knew exactly what THESE students needed me to guide them to do next as essay writers. Having three hours to do this work and plan the next unit, nonfiction writing (where again we looked at the kids' NF On-Demands), was a brilliant use of my Monday afternoon. Yes, as the teacher, I had to write sub plans so I could be away from the classroom but how great that I was given a sub and time during my school day to plan with two other very smart educators. SO FUN!!

Now I am caught up and can report on the rest of the week. Researched-based essay writing took us to researching the benefits of chocolate milk. I discovered that my school did serve chocolate milk when these 5th graders were in Kindergarten but after that, only white milk has been a choice. FOllowing the lessons in the Units of Study for teaching opinion writing, I taught notetaking while reading an article in favor of chocolate milk and another not in favor. Then the next day we viewed 2 videos and took more notes (all resources can be found by searching for 5th grade text sets on the TCRWP's website).

With our goal in mind, we planned out our essay in our notebook and then flash-typed it on Thursday and Friday. I was so excited as I walked around seeing:
  • the tab button being used because we are drafting in paragraphs
  • the introduction stating a claim and reason but no evidence
  • researched evidence being included in the 2nd-4th paragraphs
  • researched evidence in sentences that began like this: According to the article....
  • the spelling of chocolate correct from the start
  • the stamina to get an essay typed in one class period 
I'm excited to go to school on Monday and teach the revision of intro and conclusion and editing so our essay can be printed soon. SO FUN!!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Nov 8 - Conferences all over!

What a week!
I worked a regular week of five days of teaching fifth grade Writing Workshop. It was fun to introduce DEBATE around a picture book, Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting, with these kids. Over 3 days we took notes and planned our debate with the claim: The airport is a good place to live OR The airport is not a good place to live. Then caucused to plan our counter-argument. On Thursday the students flash-drafted an essay using all their notes. All the oral practice allowed ALL to successfully write an essay!!

Before and after this work, I had the pleasure of meeting the parent of each student in my homeroom. It really was a pleasure! All these kids are so great and it was fun to tell the parents that. I could hear what their concerns were. I ending Thursday night thinking at 7:15pm (as the last conference ended) how great it is to be a part of these kids lives for this brief year!

Then while ALL that was going on, I had an amazing hour meeting on Monday to discuss student work in regards to my personal teacher goal of the year. Such a strong discussion. Such a smart group of people. My big ah-ha was that as I was given suggestions on how to help one student after two colleagues read his most recent narrative on-demand, I heard what they said as narrative writing suggestions. When I questioned how I address this now that I am teaching opinion writing, they very kindly reminded me that goals go across genres. If the goal is to work on lead in narrative, it can still be the goal in opinion writing. As I type this now, it sounds so simple but personally and humbly I admit that I really was seeing the writing skills as "genre specific" and my colleagues opened my eyes to seeing the bigger picture!! SO grateful for the hour conversation!!

Then while ALL that was happening, I was asked if I would participate in a school "Walk-Thru" with the leadership team (P, AP, and 2 coaches) and school PD consultant and 2 other teachers. I of course said yes and quickly hand wrote out a lesson plan for the sub to follow while I was out of the room. WOW! What a great experience.

The lens of the walk was PURPOSE. How are the teachers planning for purpose and how are the students receiving purpose? I was taught to jot down in a t-chart what I notice on one side and what I thought on the other side. And I was taught that even though I am a human-judgmental person, I was to share non-judgmental statements aloud (a hard task! but the consultant was really good at helping us to rephrase our statements).

Here are some of the wonderings stated by the group in our debriefs after walking through a total of 8 classrooms for about 5 minutes each.
* What purpose do students see during the Morning Meeting share?
* How do students connect the purpose of one lesson to something bigger?
* How do teachers see purpose in ALL parts of the day?
* How is purpose presented to students?
* Does student purpose match teacher purpose?
* When can students set the purpose?
* How can we find and name purpose in all parts of the day?

* What is the role/connection of feedback and purpose?
* How does purpose help us plan for feedback?
* How do tools students use affect their sense of purpose?
* How do students self-assess around purpose?
* How do teachers plan for tools?
* Setting / content - does it change the students' purpose?
* How do teachers live their purpose outside of the moment?
* When is purpose whole group vs differentiated?
* How do teachers know what the students understand to be the purpose?

* How do we provide opportunities for kids to develop a purpose?

We discuss when students tell us the goal of the lesson/unit, are they just mimicking what they expect we want to hear OR do they get it and it is their purpose? We pondered the balance between giving kids the language and allowing them to own it. It seemed that when we asked them WHY...why are you using that tool? Why are you following that strategy? Why are you writing that? their answer allows us to know what the student knows.
We further pondered:
* Is the WHY talked about by the teacher?
* Do kids know WHY the why is important?
* Is the WHY connected to something bigger? Is this shared?
*Are we creating spaces to allow kids to create their why and then using what kids created from then on, AS THE CONTINUED PURPOSE?

The goal of the walk-thru process was explained to collect trends across a building, to drive PD, and to sustain a strong school by including more teachers and more diverse perspectives.

Personally, I feel the walk-thru experience WAS a PD. I learned so much by seeing a 2nd grade Writing Workshop. I learned so much by just having time to think in a room of REALLY smart people. I learned so much by not being judgmental and instead, having time to WONDER!

When I arrived home on Friday, ready for a 4-day weekend (The gift of having conferences all week long is that now Monday is not a conference day and Tue is Veteran's Day - a school holiday!), the new Writing Pathways book by Lucy Calkins arrived!!

The first paragraph of chapter one says:
" It feels audacious to be writing a book about assessment at this time when the world has gone so data-crazy that many teachers flinch at just the mention of assessment. But the truth is that we cannot let assessment be regarded as part of the Dark Side. There is good reason for the emphasis on assessment. For example, John Hattie, in his seminal text, Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement (2008), reviewed studies of more than twenty million learners to understand the factors that maximize achievement - and found that it is important for a learner to have crystal clear, ambitious goals, to be given feedback that highlights progress the learner has made toward those goals, and finally, to know of next steps that are within reach. The checklists, rubrics, and benchmark texts, within this resource will help you to provide students with that sort of potent assistance so that they aren't just writing, writing, writing, but they are instead working with deliberateness toward specific goals."

Is this the perfect resource for me to receive as this week, a week focused on goals across genres and on PURPOSE, comes to an end!

So excited to ponder more over my 4-day weekend.
So excited to plan my Opinion unit with writing goals in mind.
So excited to plan with PURPOSE!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Nov 2nd - 12:03pm

I have been at Starbucks since 8am - that's 4 hours today added to the 8 hours spent yesterday. Now all 78 5th graders that I teach writing to have a personalized writing comment to be added to their DCPS Advisory 1 Report Card. Now when I meet with each parent before or after school for a conference this week, I have information to share. Needless to say, I am a bit tired of writing for 12 hours in one weekend. Next year I'll "get" this process and will space it out and manage it better. The pitfalls of being a newbie!

Here's an example of one comment:

___is a kind and thoughtful member of our classroom community. She participates actively and respectfully in our homeroom discussions and activities.

In Writing Workshop, your child grew as a narrative writer by completing the entire writing process (generate ideas, plan, draft, revise, and edit) to publish one small moment personal narrative story and one realistic fiction story. During the process, specific narrative techniques were incorporated into the writing so the reader of each story could see and feel what the character saw and felt.  ____ is a strong storyteller who attentively listens to the daily mini-lesson and willing tries to incorporate the techniques demonstrated into her own writing. ____ writing volume is so strong – her fiction story was told across 13 typed pages! She also is a very descriptive writer, Here is an example from her last personal narrative written about a visit with cousins: I showed her a fake phone which she loved and a light-up ball that when I turned it on, her eyes shown and she put on an adorable grin. I showed her a few more things and each time, her eyes shown in amazement. I knew this was going to be a good visit and I was absolutely right. 

and another:
_____ is a kind and thoughtful member of our classroom community. He participates actively in our homeroom discussions and activities. He is working on controlling the impulse to speak out loud at any time. He struggles most during transitions from one class to another. We will continue to help him understand how his actions affect the entire the class community which he is a member and to help him to make stronger choices.

In Writing Workshop, your child grew as a narrative writer by completing the entire writing process (generate ideas, plan, draft, revise, and edit) to publish one small moment personal narrative story and one realistic fiction story. During the process, specific narrative techniques were incorporated into the writing so the reader of each story could see and feel what the character saw and felt. We continue to work with ____ to build his confidence as a writer. In all his writing pieces, he has shown us strong writing techniques; yet, we see ____ not believing this or not wanting to work at his writing.  To help _____ sort out his story ideas and tell it step-by-step, we have him orally share his ideas during conferences. This time to talk it out helps him to organize his thoughts and then get them on the paper. Your support at home to have him orally practice his writing ideas helps. An example of his writing from his last personal narrative about playing baseball is: If I hit the runner on 3rd/David in, we win. The first pitch comes in. Strike. 0-1. I step out of the box with so much pressure on my shoulders and take a practice swing and step back in. As the reader, I definitely want to read on to find out what happens!

Now I am going to enjoy what is left of this weekend. Tomorrow we will debate if the airport is a good or a not good place to live while reading Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting. Luckily, I have that all planned out!!