Saturday, February 28, 2015

Last day of February

This week...
Monday we had off for Parent/Teacher Conferences which we opted to hold after school and have Monday off!

Tuesday - we celebrated by attending the 4th graders' Nonfiction Writing Publishing Party and walked them down to see our Nonfiction American History display.

It is one thing for the 4th grade writing teacher or me to tell a student that we like their introduction. It is another thing for a 5th grader to share that they really liked a 4th grader's introduction. "I read introductions that were really interesting and it hooked me and made me want to read on." It felt very powerful having our 4th and 5th grade writers to spend time together on Monday. Tiime was spend reading a 4th grader's article by a 5th grader and time was spend viewing a 5th grader's Museum display by a 4th grader. Then both groups spent time reflecting together.

The 4th grade teacher's final question was: 5th graders, what advice can you give to the 4th graders with regards to revising and editing. Hands shot up. Again, tips were shared that I have taught to writers in mini-lessons but how powerful for a kid to be telling another kid. I think the tips are heard more when it comes from another kid! I am so glad we took a day to celebrate and grow together!

Wed - Thur - Fri: PARCC Prep / Writing about Reading
I made a worksheet, one side showing 3 story prompts and the other side showing 4 essay prompts. I modeled how to use the highlighter on the PARCC computer test and asked the kids to take their worksheet and read and highlight. After this independent work, they talked at their tables about what they highlighted. Then as a class, we charted TIPS on HOW TO READ A WRITING PROMPT

I do think one class to focus on this important skill was worthwhile. (Thank you Mary for suggesting we do this at our Tuesday Planning Meeting!) The kids "get" that they will be asked to either write a story or an essay. They "get" that the prompt needs to be read and then reread and that highlighting can help.

Thur / Fri: I wrote a Literacy Prompt asking for an essay to be written that identifies the theme of the story Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
You read Little Red Riding Hood by Leanne Guenther and The Story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears by DLTK. Identify a theme in each story. Write an essay that explains how the theme of the story is shown through the characters in each story. Include specific details from each story to support the essay.

 I placed the kids into groups of 4 and gave them a poster to chart themes and add post-its of text evidence. On Friday, I gave them a template of an essay divided into introduction, story #1, story #2, and conclusion. I gave them 15 more minutes to work as a group. Then each group ORALLY shared their group planned essay. 

Again, I do think this was a good way to have the kids "practice" for the PARCC literary section of the test. When we ended the class, reflecting on the process. They said they felt they could now do this. They liked seeing how I used the prompt to make the intro and conclusion. They could write a theme and back it up with text evidence. I'm kind of excited about them doing this work on an assessment.

Next week - we will try the RESEARCH PROMPT online using the released PARCC assessment (Monday) and try a LITERACY PROMPT independently and not with a group (Tue/Wed). Thur and Friday I want to focus on planning and spelling. And I'll try to throw in some fun read-aloud!

Then March 10-17, they take the PARCC!! I do value this time spent on a skill they need to know how to do in their applications, job applications, book club discussions.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

2/20. Snow and Testing

Monday was a holiday - President 's Day.
Tuesday was a snow day.
Wednesday was a regular teaching day.
I did an overview of the PARCC test for each class and planned a narrative practice prompt for the kids to do the next day.
Thursday and Friday I had to teach in 4th grade to administer the district unit test to 4th graders like I will in March for the PARCC.
Now it is Saturday morning and I'm blogging on my kindle because I left school yesterday without my computer because  I wasn't in my room following my  normal routine...I can't focus...

So much comes at us fast as a teacher. So much to juggle. I see I need to let go and let the kids help more. But I am human and struggle to juggle so much. Am I just older and  not able to keep up? Or is too much asks  of us?

Oh well. I'll keep pondering. I'll just enjoy a computer-free weekend. I'll let  it go and celebrate that on Tuesday I get  to teach 5th grade in my room. (not Monday  because we voted to hold conferences after school so I have off Monday and get to conference from 4-7pm on Tuesday)

So much to juggle...

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Publishing Party! And Staffing News :(

What a week...

MONDAY - we realized that in just 2 days we would have guest arriving for our Publishing Party on Wed and we were not sure if we were ready. BUT we got to work and if we had finished, we started helping others and started helping to prepare the Museum Space.

TUESDAY -  we worked during class, during lunch, after school...As I left Tuesday at 8pm, the Museum was HUNG!! (thank you Mary and Gabrielle for helping!).

WEDNESDAY - SO many parents came!!! The students guided their guests first to their American History Museum exhibit and then around the room and hallway to the other areas of the museum. It was so peaceful, just like at a real museum. People strolling, stopping to view and read and learn.

Once we viewed, we all came back together and I asked, "What did you learn?" and hands shot up to share facts they learned. Then I read this quote:

As American poet and novelist, Robert Penn Warren (!905-1989) says:
"History cannot give us a program for the future, 
but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, 
so that we can better face the future."
and I asked if they saw anything today that will help them to better face the future. Again, brave responses shared. We also asked about the process. How did it feel on Monday and Tuesday and then today. So many reflected that they did not think they would finish but then once they focused and got help from a friend to tape info onto their poster, they were able to finish.

What did I learn?
I love the workshop model for so many reasons! This Informational Writing Unit reminded me that writing is hard and is a process that all go through at their own pace. But then in the end, ALL can write to teach. I loved making an authentic museum! I loved transforming the room/hallway into a museum. I loved seeing how everyone helped everyone! I barely slept or ate Mon-Wed but I got so much energy from seeing the kids work so hard to be ready for a Publishing Party!

THURSDAY - My Principal called a mandatory after-school meeting and announced that she will be leaving at the end of this school year. She has the opportunity to open a new Middle School in the Brookland area of D.C. She is a brilliant visionary and is the perfect pick for this job. When asked about the AP and Instructional Coaches, they said they hope to follow her there as well. WOW....what news. I'm still processing...

FRIDAY - a professional development day so no kids to teach and a chance to learn some new tricks about writing and reading. And the chance to go out to lunch and grab a beer after work. ALL needed after such a busy week!

Now, a 3-day weekend! Happy President's Day!  (55 days until Spring Break!)

Friday, February 6, 2015

Feb. 6th - report card comments done!

So Monday reminded me of why I can't work and work and work on school stuff only all weekend. I also need to pay attention to my home life, like to the oil tank in the basement and call to have it refilled before it runs out. Because that is what happened...Monday morning it was empty. But I love the oil company - they came right out and refilled it. However, now I know to NEVER let it run totally out because then it requires a service call to have the oil man come clear the line of air so the furnace can keep running.

Due to this, I now know what it feels like to try to write report card comments when one is cold and worried that maybe the furnace is broken and if so, where will I sleep. So needless to say, NO comments got written on Monday. I literally couldn't think clearly because I was cold, awaiting for my hero, Herb from Petro Oil who finally did arrive at 10pm to magically get the furnace running again.

Tuesday a few done...Wed was the due date but I emailed to say I'd be late in posting my comments.
All but 5 to go as of 10pm Thursday night. The last 5 written between 5am-7am on Friday, today. DONE!

I so need a better system. As a departmentalized writing teacher, I can't spend 24 hours just writing comments. (I tracked my hours from Sat until now - yep, 24 hours devoted only to writing comments).

My new goal - a better system!

Wednesday is our Publishing Party for our informational writing unit, the first unit of the 3rd quarter. I need to electronically record feedback on this writing so then I can then cut and paste it faster when making comments. I hope to start making these comments as I go...not starting when they are due in days. With 80 kids, I can't.

But as a new writing teaching, I guess I just need to live it all this year...then next year will be better. It has to be better because it can't get worse than spending a week no-stop writing comments.


Next Post: the highlights of our Nonfiction Writing as an American History Museum Exhibit!!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

February 1 - a weekend of writing report card comments

This was my weekend schedule:
Saturday - alarm goes off at 5:30am and I'm at Starbucks by 6:30am writing report card comments. At 1pm, I take a break to shower and then go to a deli and write more comments. At 6pm, I stop to have dinner and watch the undefeated UVA men's basketball team lose to Duke. I then go to bed.

Sunday - alarm goes off at 5:30am but I sleep for a bit more and I'm at Panera at 7am writing more comments. I take a break to do grocery shopping for the week and once home, do the dishes and put out the trash. Then back to writing more comments.

Now it is 5pm...I have completed the comments for three of the 5th grade classes I teach and have emailed them to their homeroom teacher. I still have to write comments for the 19 students in my homeroom....They are due Wed.

I need to figure out a system so this doesn't happen again. I can't write and write and write all weekend. What am I writing?

Here's a sample of Ellie's comment:

In Writing Workshop, your child grew as an argument essay writer by completing the writing process to produce three convincing essays. The techniques of oral debate were used as a way to strengthen the structure and development of each written essay. The techniques included learning about both sides of an issue equally, stating relevant reasons for one side of the issue, adding convincing researched evidence, and offering a counter-argument to the issue stated by the debate opponent. Your child continued to grow as a narrative writer by transferring the specific techniques of personal narrative to many small moment stories with more independence.

 Ellie progressed well this Advisory by participating in all aspects of Writing Workshop. She showed she could structure her essays well and develop her arguments using researched evidence to back up her reasons. During her third essay try, she was able to transfer these skills with more independence to write about the importance of green energy. In order to continue to grow as a writer, Ellie is using the 5th grade writing checklists, which remind her of the skills needed to structure, develop and include correct writing conventions in her writing pieces. Inspired by the winter holidays, she showed her creativity by publishing a clever poem written from the prospective of being a gingerbread person. One stanza reads:“The one problem is/I must confess/Everything would be candy!/Even my dress”

Most everyone is getting the first paragraph...then I am opening their writing folder to add specifics to that writer in the 2nd paragraph.

I think I like my job.
I know I need a better system.

I'm heading home to watch the Super Bowl and take a break.
19 more...I can do them tomorrow and Tuesday...