Saturday, May 30, 2015

Almost June 1st...15 more days of school

I did write my end of year LETTER to the students!
I did start report card comments.
I did start report card grades.
I did make a reflection sheet for students to use as they look back on ALL their writing this year.

And I had the students write a HAIKU about our school, Janney and then made them a Collection of Haiku booklet!! While the students worked independently on their independent project on Friday, I worked on ensuring ALL haiku poems were written and after school, I headed to the xerox machine to make 90 books!! I look forward to distributing them to the students on Monday. I am proud of this LAST published writing of our year!

Here are a few of the poems:

A Student Blossoms

I blossom like a

Flower planted in Janney's

Nurturing soil

- Sasha Code

Picture Day

Is my hair okay?

Is there spinach in my teeth?

SNAP! Oh well, too late

- Maija Lindy

Janney's Animals

Blue eggs in a tree

I've seen the chickens pecking

Strolled past the bee's comb

- Sydney Janssen

First Days

The first day of school

I'm feeling kind of nervous

New friends await me

- Ellie Bijeau

I trip and fall - pain

A stranger helps me up - thanks

I like Janney kids

-Matias Facchinato-Sitja

New sprouts were planted,

Now, they are large. They've grown.

We have grown as well.

- Oscar Ertman

It's so beautiful

A symphony of color

the Janney garden

-Hugo Filmer

Teachers, numerous

Experiences, millions

Friends, uncountable

-       Annie McLean

Bright-eyed and eager

Ready to explore the world

Thanks to Janney School

-Maya Landweber

Saturday, May 23, 2015

PARCC test is over...boring week as a teacher

At my school, I must proctor the giving of the PARCC test in a 4th grade classroom, while the 4th grade writing teacher gives the test to my homeroom students.

So on Monday, I went to my classroom and wrote the agenda on the board for my 5th graders, left out a handful of possible picture book read-alouds and the Monday activity the class was to work on.

Then I went to the 4th grade classroom and began setting out the computers and went to the office to receive my testing tickets and seal code. Once the students arrived, I got to WATCH them take their ELA PARCC test for 75 minutes. BORING.

Then the class went to specials and lunch and in the afternoon, I watch/guided them to do the independent assignment left for them. I ended the day on Monday, feeling exhausted and thankful I am not a substitute teacher every day. Too BORING. Also, very frustrating to not really know the kids, who they work well with, who distracts them. Obviously I discovered information about the kids quickly, but all very tiring.

Tuesday and Wednesday...more of the same with the students taking the 2-day Math PARCC.

Then on Thursday I returned to my 5th graders. Yet, it felt like it did after retrieving my own children after they spent a weekend with grandma. I called it deprogramming. All those behaviors grandma allowed, I didn't and I remember wondering if it was worth it to take time away from them. Thursday felt like a day of reminding the 5th graders how to act kindly and respectfully because time with another teacher seemed to change them into students who didn't remember any of our classroom community rules. Thursday was also a day for the 5th graders to pilot the Science PARCC test...90 minutes of watching them...BLAH...

Friday wasn't even a back to normal day. The morning was Science Fair share and a session with the counselor to practice opening a middle school lock. The afternoon was time for those that still hadn't opened that lock to open it and then their Human Growth and Development talk with the nurse (Girls) and PE teacher (boys). So a day of really just herding my students and no teaching. It was a double special day which meant a double planning day with my writing team. We took our meeting across the street to include lunch and had a great time reflecting on the year and thinking about the next year.

Now it is Memorial Day Weekend and 19 more days of school.
4 weeks.

We will finish up our Poetry Unit.
We will share our Independent Writing Projects.
We will go on a 3-day, 2-night camping trip (I wish I was more excited about this...)
We will prepare for the Promotion.

This weekend, I will begin to draft the final report card comments.
This weekend, I will write questions to guide our writing reflection.
This weekend, I will write the students a final letter of thanks for a great year.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

It's May....Finally fitting in a Poetry Unit of Study

Our Memoir unit ended the last Friday in April. The final On-Demands needed to be completed before PARCC. A week of science writing to support the 5th grade Science Fair occurred last week. Next week is the PARCC. Then in June, the 5th grade takes a 3-day camping trip. As I was planning for what to teach in May and June, Poetry seemed the best answer with all the interruptions. My workshop plan became to treat each day as a chance to immerse the students in a poet's writing, then time for them to draft. After PARCC, I'll provide time for them to choose at least one poem to revise, edit and publish. So far, fitting in poetry in this busy May/June time has worked out beautifully.

I didn't grow up loving poetry. In fact, thanks to high school, I only have bad memories associated with poetry, specifically related to The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot and The Red Wheelbarrel by William Carlos Williams. It wasn't until I read Love That Dog by Sharon Creech that finally I came to enjoy poetry. Its character, Jack, helped me to just enjoy the sound and look of poems and not feel stupid when I didn't get a poems meaning.

Now I enjoy teaching poetry to my students and sharing ways that have worked for me with colleagues. In fact a week ago Friday I presented to a group of teachers at our DC3 Share Conference. To prepare for that presentation, I gathered all the resources I have used over the years. I wrote about this HERE back in Dec, 2011 when teaching another group of colleagues.

At that time, J. Patrick Lewis was just named our National Children's Poet Laureate and knowing the job is for two years, I realized I hadn't kept up and I did not know who the current National Children's Poet Laureate was. I quickly googled and discovered Kenn Nesbitt. WOW! His website is FILLED with great resources. In fact, on Thursday, I just opened his Haiku Lesson Plan on the smartboard, read it to the class and then they spent 15 minutes writing amazing haiku poems! This website is now added to my growing list of great poetry sites.

Another great poetry unit addition is Chris Lehman. He now has a total of 6 videos  - 3 from last April and 3 more from this April. He runs a Poetry Workshop that is recorded and archived.
2014 Sessions found here
2015 Sessions found here

A final additional resource I discovered were the many additions to the ReadWriteThink website.
I knew about the shape poems - click here
Now they also have:

I also discovered a that poet, Helen Frost, had written a new picture book poem called:
I love ALL Helen's books written in verse. I think of her as a genius novel-prose writer!
Helen's website
We plan to have our 5th grades perform this poem, Sweep Up the Sun during our Promotion ceremony! I recommend read it and viewing the amazing photography by Rick Lieder as well.

I'm so glad I keep looking for resources to teach many great many great poems!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

It's May - time for EOY On-Demands

During the first week of school, I had my 5th graders do On-Demands across three school days. That is what TCRWP call it when you give students one class period to write in one class period showing all they know about a genre. One day was narrative, then essay, and finally informational.

Tuesday, I had the students write an informational on-demand.
I showed them this slide:
I placed the 5th grade information writing checklist out on tables for students to reference (from Pathways book by Lucy Calkins that we used this year).

As they wrote, I took these notes:
* When I offered my IEP students the choice of paper and pencil OR computer, all picked computer
* More reluctant writers wrote a How To...I wonder if I modeled enough for them how to more away from How To to now write All About.
* All 79 students were told on Monday they could bring in an article to reference as they wrote and 5 did.
* My most struggling writer who was new to our school and writing workshop spent 5 minutes orally practicing what he could write about. He picked Kinds of Bikes and then he spent 40 minutes writing a whole page, using headings and only one trip to the bathroom. Hurrah!! I gave him a high-five as he handed it in and told him how proud I was of his writing. (Back in September, he wrote 1 sentence).
* I noticed lots chose to write an All About a sport they know or an animal they have written about before or about the AMerican History topic they wrote about back in March.

I worry that these writers keep writing about the same nonfiction topic and aren't able to transfer their informational writing to a new topic.
 - maybe I don't model writing informational writing enough
 - maybe I don't encourage them to write about a NEW topic
    - we allow CHOICe but if they always choose the SAME topic, are they growing??
 - Maybe I need to read and write more informational writing myself. I'll admit, it is NOT my favorite. OR it is just not what I have practiced.

I WILL work on this so I can be a better teacher of informational writing!!!
My students are working on an independent writing project...I am going to do an independent project too and it WILL be an informational piece. I'll head to the library TODAY to get books to read and act as mentor text so I can write an informational piece!!