Wednesday, October 29, 2008

So Cool...

Tomorrow I have Parent/Teacher conferences. This week before school and after school I have been conducting conferences for parents who can't make it on Thursday. Already I am saying, "so cool." I have every one of my students signed up for confences. I usually have a great turnout but this year it has been easy to get parents signed up! My most favorite thing that we are discussing is choosing books for their child. More than a few times I have had parents asking me how to choose books at the library, on book orders, etc. They are truly looking for "just right" books for their student. This is exciting to me, it means that their student is wanting books, and the parents are understanding the value of books. Reading is becoming a priority in their homes!
During my 15 minutes I must again relay the power of reading at home with their child. Most of my parents are game, and they are seeing the results in their child. I have some parents that are still not getting it, they don't have time, they don't have the resources, they are not reading at home.
How can we get parents to understand the power of a reading time daily for their child?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bedtime Giggles

My children don't have school tomorrow. A friend called and asked if Sophie could have a sleepover. My youngest daughter is not ready for sleepovers and so was a little bummed to be left with just mommy and daddy. We made a trip to Sonic for a strawberry sundae and then she snuggled a little with daddy watching America's Funniest Home Videos. After that, we snuck upstairs to do some reading before bed. We always read before bed so this was not new. Being all alone with just mommy is new.
Good Night Alfie Atkins is a book that we checked out recently and we have read it every day since then. It is a wonderful book about a little boy who doesn't want to go to sleep at night. He keeps asking his dad to do things, and the father keeps doing them. My daughter's favorite part is when Alfie has to "pee." This totally cracks her up because the illustrator has drawn that into the picture. Alfie, is standing there legs crossed, holding himself. She always laughs big belly giggles. Tonight was no different. She laughed, showed it to daddy, explained it to him, and then giggled some more. Tonight reading was fun, this is what I want for her, this is my hope for her.
As you read with your children, in your classroom or at home this week focus on the joy of reading.
How will you show them that books can be fun?
What will you do to create a lifelong love of reading?

Friday, October 24, 2008

4 on Friday

1. My husband is finally on the mend and heading back to work. Two and a half weeks ago he had his tonsils removed on a Thursday. On Saturday we went to the emergency room twice on Saturday, the last time they kept him overnight. Sunday we returned home at about 4 in the afternoon. After only 4 hours of sleep I crashed on the couch for 2 went to bed at 9 p.m. and then began a new week of school. It was crazy!!! Thankfully, this week most things have returned to normal and he is going back to work. We are seeing normalcy back in our household.

2. I took this afternoon off from the classroom. I went with my family and we saw High School Musical 3. Great flick, but even better was sitting with both girls on either side. Watching my husband watching a "chick" flick is hilarious!

3. My students are doing awesome! We are moving through questioning, story elements, and next week we will begin questioning the author. I am excited to see what that holds for us. Writer's workshop has been fun this week. With our artifacts in hand I saw a renewed sense of writer's purpose. Suddenly, their stories needed telling! Very cool to see.

4. My own children had parent teacher conferences. This is always hard for me. I have a lot of role switching that I need to overcome as a teacher/parent person. Sometimes it is nice to have Scott there asking questions that I never seem to ask, and he calms my inner assumptions. They are doing fine. They are nice, kind children who love to learn. They are both creative, and imaginative. They have very good vocabularies, and they exactly where they need to be for their grade level. I knew this, but it is good to hear it from someone who spends 6 hours a day with them.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

All the buzz...

This week we began our week with artifacts from home. I sent home a letter last week to parents asking for students to bring in some special "things." We were ready Monday morning with our gallon size bags in hand to share what we brought. We got with a couple of friends and shared our baggies, each person valuing everything within. We photocopied pictures, did rubbings of several special artifacts, and then we placed them within our notebooks. Some students immediately had some things to write about and so that work began. Some of us sat back and began planning some stories that we would be writing in the near future. We were all the buzz...
Yesterday, another student modeled her list of story ideas that she had written on Monday. She talked about the piece that she wrote describing her picture but how that picture of her family planted even more seed stories for her to write. Many students spent yesterday planting seeds for some short story narratives.
Today, I pulled my piece about putting up Christmas at our house out and onto a large sheet of chart paper. I modeled for students what a "sensory" writing would look like. I used a web to display the different senses and then wrote some ideas for that piece. I encouraged students to use the web to help with preplan writing. I was thrilled to see some of them writing like this today during independent writing time.
Tomorrow, we will be discussing where to put periods. I have some students placing them at the end of every line in their notebook. Hopefully, I can model effectively proper placement of periods.
It is amazing to watch them grow. They are tremendous writers, living writerly lives.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Writing to a Prompt

My school corporation quarterly requires my students to write from a prompt. This is to prepare my students for next year when they will be given the state's standardized test, but also, it is a great way to see their progress periodically. This quarter's writing prompt dealt with writing a personal narrative story about a special memory. Last week we discussed several prompts that could be given for the writing prompt. I took some time to just let them talk about what they would write about for the writing examples, we talked through the prompts, we discussed what was required for each example. I also showed them the editing checklist that always appears on the test. We discussed each item and then placed a sample within our writer's notebooks. We underlined words that needed to be capitalized, and sentences in our own writing that needed punctuation. Today, I had my students do the actual writing prompt and then graded them for the assessment. I am using a new rubric because I have moved up a grade so it was a little new to me.
I think initially that I graded them a little harder than I should have, so I am going to ask a colleague to review my grading.
I also generated a list of things that I could use as mini lesson ideas for Writer's Workshop. (Writing to a prompt may not be such a bad idea at times!)
Here are some things I will conduct mini lessons on:
1. The use of i being capitalized when referring to yourself. Really, I didn't think it needed to be discussed but okay...
2. Going back over our work, rereading and finding the missing words. I noticed a lot of missing words in their work.
3. Run-on sentences, this is a hard concept. But, I do know that the use of and, and, and, and, And, and, And, is not going to be acceptable anymore.
4. Capitalization and punctuation. (always something we must model, model, model)
This gives me a good start...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Does my mindset reflect change?

You know with the upcoming elections we are hearing a lot about change. We are hearing a lot of promises that we know can't be kept, even in highly prosperous economical times. We hear a lot about that word, change.
I began wondering, am I a person who is willing to change? One commentator from my area, a man running for our school board, says that teachers, and parents, and apparently the members of the current school board, aren't hearing criticism and then changing. They say that the teachers in my district don't want to change, or hear the negative and then change. Am I one of those teachers?
I ask that question as one of reflection, (not necessarily opening myself up to criticism, believe me, as a teacher, I receive enough criticism.)
I think that I openly embrace change, change that is given to me in a positive way, in a way that is constructive, in a way that by no means tears me, my students, or my other colleagues (that I have grown to respect) apart...I respect this kind of change! But you see, many people who are talking right now are speaking not from their heart of change, but from the heart of election. They are so caught up in calling one and all to their cause that they are missing the true focus of what my profession means, to educate all students.
Most people running for public office are criticizing, pointing the blame, and promising things they cannot guarantee! This is not change we need, what we need is someone who will constructively come along side us and support us in our own change. We need to study best practices, we need to read about what works best, we need to begin to discuss, and mull things over. This is how change occurs, when people come together, out of respect, and say, "Let's work together."
If you are not a person that does that well, then you shouldn't volunteer to oversee a board, or partnership with a school corporation. We have big issues that need to be worked out positively. Your finger blaming, condescending, lack of respect tone will get us no where. Most people will rise up and buck the system if they feel the system doesn't respect the work they are doing. And then where will we be? We will be changing, it just won't be for the better...
Does my mindset reflect change? I think that if you read previous posts on this blog you will see that my mindset reflects change, you will see that I have grown, changed, and bettered myself because it was important to my students.
Am I perfect? By no means, I am still an active learner in my students' eyes. I want them to see me as a reader, a writer, and a person who loves learning. When they leave my classroom I care whether or not they are reading at grade level, I care whether or not they know their math facts, and I care whether or not they can pass the state standardized test next year.
But most importantly, the most important thing that I want for them... I want them to love reading, love what a book can give them, love the journey a book can take them along. I want them to be able to use the math that we have been studying all year, I want them to have number sense, and problem solving skills. I want them to value learning, so that they keep learning, not just for a test, not just for their community, not just for me or their parents, but for themselves.
That is change that I can believe in!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Watching Myself in my Students' Eyes

This morning as I watched my intern from a far I sat and listened to her teach a small group of students. Trying to stay invisible from my post I glanced around the room at two girls sitting close to me. Thinking to myself I wondered why they weren't at their workstation, why did they feel like they didn't need to follow routines. Grunting at their lack of focus I got up to go ask them to do what they were supposed to be doing! As I approached the two I quickly noticed one girl who was covering the text of a book. As she covered the text she asked the second girl, "what text can you predict will be on this page?" The student replied with a very good inference and the little girl said, "very good, you made a very good inference. What evidence did you use to help you come up with that inference?" Together the two girls practiced what we have been doing in our independent workshop! I walked back to my invisible spot and observed both my interns lesson and the lessons these two girls were learning together.
You know sometimes I have self doubt. Sometimes I think they aren't "getting it." Sometimes I wonder if it is really as useful as the research proves to me. And then I have moments like today, when I get to watch myself through my student's eyes...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Night For Us...

I hurried through my day at school, not caring about the things that would normally get me in a tizzy on a Friday afternoon. I had to get home, my mother would be arriving, I didn't want to be late! My mother arrived, two children excited about their overnight adventure greeted her at the door. Getting their shoes on they chattered away happily about what they wanted to accomplish in our absence.

My husband and I loaded up into the family mini van and off we went. We arrived in Chicago by 9:00 pm. The city was lit up like they were expecting our arrival. I chattered on about the beauty of the city, delayed in traffic we waited, and waited and... Finally, we arrived at the hotel, placed our things on the counters, vegged out on the TV, happy to be together.

Saturday arrived bright and early we readied ourselves, ate a continental breakfast, and took the shuttle to O'Hare airport. From this destination we took the blue line to the red line to downtown Chicago. We tooled around Chicago, popping in and out of stores. We watched street performers, and drank expensive drinks that we don't typically purchase. We went into the only "holiness" on Michigan Ave, the First Presbyterian Church, we joked about renewing our vows here. It was lovely.

We purchased two brownies from the Hershey store, mine minty and delicious his covered in chocolate.

We ate at Gino's East where we didn't worry about a 25 minute wait for pizza. We sat and discussed, watched the other customers, time was on our side.

Finally, we loaded the subway back to our stop, waited for the shuttle, and went to find some old dear friends. We ate dinner, conversed, again, time was on our side. Leaving Chicago we promised to return at the holidays for a weekend among friends, a new tradition, one were building for our children.

Our children... when we returned home we found them sleeping, we kissed them and smelled their familiar smell. We gazed at one another, whole and renewed, we were ready for these two little girls. Today we awoke to their wonderful voices, they snuggled down into our bed, and again, we were a family.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Ahhh, much better!

Confering is going much better during that Independent Reader's Workshop time. Students are far more accepting of my invasion. We have discovered that we have some really great things to discuss even! Today though, I just sat back and watched...
We have a new student in our classroom and he has been getting adjusted to the routine of how things are done in this classroom. I am sure it is quite the adjustment, but he is doing great! Today, I watched as he and the rest of the class settled into the routine.
-Two girls were reading Green Eggs and Ham together, the inflection was incredible!
-One of my boys has moved from Flat Stanley to Flat Stanley Invisible. He is so in to the books! Finding an author that you really enjoy makes a huge diffence.
-Babymouse-how can one describe what joys this series has brought to our classroom? We are really sharing these books. I see trading, discussion, and boy is that mouse funny!
-Mighty Robots by Dave Pilkey has been another hit in our room! Today I actually had to break up an argument about who's book it was. We compromised and resolved a situation but it was humorous to see arguing about books!
Sitting back in reflection I saw them as readers today. They have come so far, working with a student who has no background in Reader's Workshop you see how far they have come. I was really proud of them!