Saturday, December 20, 2014

Dec. 20th - I'm on Winter Break!!!

What a busy last week before winter break!! But now I have changed my alarm to NOT go off at 5:30am and I just sent my last email to my parents sharing highlights of the week and after posting my Back in the Classroom thoughts, I will turn off the computer and unplug for ALL of break. (My youngest daughter is in Europe and my husband, other daughter and I fly tomorrow to meet her and spend 10 days in Venice!!)

Monday I followed the suggestions of Lucy and Annie in the 5th grade Unit of Study for Teaching Opinion Writing on how to have a Publishing Party. It was suggested to have parents listen as opinion writers share as if on a panel. The students talk and then ask for questions and comments.

SO Friday I match pairs of students up and had them PLAN out sharing their reasons for their Big Idea. The students all wrote about the airport being a good or not good place to live (after reading Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting), about whether chocolate milk should or should not return to the Janney lunch menu, and then a topic of their choice. I was able to match pairs that took the same position and gave them an organizer - Partner 1 started with an intro, Partner 2 shared the first reason, Partner 1 shared the 2nd reason and Partner 2 shared the 3rd reason, Partner 1 stated the conclusion, and Partner 2 asked if their are any questions or comments.

About 8 adults came for each of the celebrations (I teach 4 classes and invited the parents from each homeroom to attend the celebration when their child has Writing Class). On the same day, the 4th grade teacher wanted to showcase his writers, so I send half the class for 15 minutes to his room, leaving just 5 pairs of students. I had them sit and adults join so all pairs had at least 2 adults to talk to. Then I set the timer for 10 minutes. To help the parents, I gave them a handout:

Today’s agenda is to sit and listen to a pair of students who wrote an essay about the same topic. After listening, please ask them questions and encourage a dialogue.

Possible questions are:
A question I have after hearing you speak is ______.
Can you explain this more?

I heard you say ______.
I don’t agree with that. I think …..

You said ____.
This reminds me of …

What other essays have you written?  Can I see your essays?

Then the students will switch and you will listen to another pair of students. Again, after listening, please ask them questions encouraging a dialogue.

Then the magic happened!! The students talked about their topic. Questions and comments were exchanged. After both groups shared, I had all reflect on what surprised them about celebrating their writing in this way, through a discussion. In all four classes, the students remarked on how the adults knew lots about their topic and that the questions they asked, got them to think deeper about their topic and come to name many more questions. I love that I celebrated in this fashion (thank you Lucy and Annie)!! Rarely do we write an essay and have it printed. Instead, we think about an issue and TALK about it to get others to understand the issue and especially our side of the issue. I love that Monday was a day of talking about BIG IDEAS!!

Tuesday the class reflected on all 3 essays they wrote. I used the new checklists with picture support on the new Pathways book and created a page that listed the Opinion skills related to structure, development and conventions for a 5th grade Opinion writer. Then I made 3 columns of Not yet, working in it and YES! I asked the kids to use this checklist sheet as they reread all three of their essays. 

Wednesday we took a break and wrote a friendly letter to a student in France. My daughter, Anne is working as a teaching assistant and native English speaker in France and she set us up with pen pals.

Thursday I had my co-teacher teach a fun lesson by reading Mo Willem's newest book - Waiting is Hard! and they did a quick write about a time that they had to wait. And what did I do?? I spend Wed night reading 25 students' essays and writing a GLOW and GROW on each of the checklist worksheets. Then Thursday I worked from 7am - 3pm reading 40 more students'. Then on Thur night I read the last dozen. I was determined to have all the reading and feedback completed!! I'm traveling ALL of winter break and need ALL my school work done. 

NOTE: as I took a break from reading essays on Thursday, I saw this tweet: "If you can read all your students' writing, they aren't writing enough." I laughed to myself...I took a day off from work so I could read ALL their writing!!

Friday was a wonderful day of reflection!! I share my final 2014 email to my parents here as it sums it up well:
Dear 5th grade Families,
We had another wonderful week in 5th grade at Janney. 

Monday started with a day of sharing our opinions during our Writing Workshop Publishing Party Celebration. Thank you to those who could come and even those who brought along their parent or in-law. Having adults to discuss big ideas with really helped the students to see WHY their ideas matter and WHY taking notes on both sides of an issue matters. As we reflected, the students commented on how taking a longer time to discuss a topic had their discussion go deeper. I know my own mom enjoyed her afternoon discussions! If you couldn't come, do ask your child who their partner was and what was discussed. Opinion essay feedback sheets will come home in the January 6th Take-home Tuesday envelop.

Friday ended with a day of reflection. I experienced my first Janney Sing-Along!! I loved sitting in the gym with every single Janney student and teacher. Our class got to be the last song - Winter Wonderland! It was a joyful and peaceful hour of songs highlighting all the cultural celebrations occurring at this time of year. My very favorite part was listening to Avey from our class, along with Annette, play their recorders. I recorded it and was able to attach some of it to this email. Enjoy their peaceful song!!

Also on Friday, we took time to reflect back on the 2014 calendar. We joined Ms Fernandez' class and looked at a calendar of the whole 2014 year and circled dates we recall fondly. I circled May 18 - the day Anne graduated from UVA, July 31st - the first day I met Ms Fernandez and August 11 -  my first day of work at Janney! Dates shared by the students were the last day of 4th grade, first day of 5th, a summer trip and Super Bowl Sunday! Then we watched this video of Google's year in review based on searches:   (I share the link as you might also enjoy it)
Then we looked at the 2015 calendar and thought ahead to the New Year and jotted down our thoughts.

As I reflect, I love that I still get six more months to work with your child!
Thank you for entrusting your child to me as their homeroom and writing teacher.
I am confident that 2015 will be an amazing year and I'm so grateful I get to spend it as a teacher of your child for most of the year!!

Now I am taking off my teacher hat for the winter break. I am grateful that my youngest daughter, Anne, requires a visit by her dad, her sister and me in Europe so we must comply! Have a peaceful winter break and I look forward to seeing you at Jamboree on January 5, 2015.


And now I end my last blog post of 2014. More reflections to come by a teacher who is happily back in the classroom teaching writing workshop in 2015!!

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