Celebrate: Student Explorations and PD with Colleagues

This week felt huge. Was Spring Break only a week ago? 

celebrate link upEvery Saturday, Ruth Ayers hosts a place to celebrate the big and small things in our week.  For me, it is a way to focus on and grow the good work that happens daily. To read more of these celebrations click here.

First – Poetry! My students are in the midst of writing poems of apology. Inspired by William Carlos Williams’ This is Just to Say. Read more about it here...

We also attempted to a Progressive Poem.

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Each student has a number and they were to write a line when their number matched the date of the month. It was an interesting experiment. The poem started to go one way and then another and then back again. Interesting process. Each child trying to make sense of the lines that came before them. Now I’m wondering what will they title it? And now that they see what they did, I wonder what they might come up with next month.

Next:  Owning Vocabulary. We study vocabulary throughout the year based on our read alouds. I try to choose words that are used or are concepts addressed in the text. I try to select words that can be used with a fair amount of frequency in reading, writing and speaking. Over the course of the year we have amassed nearly 100 words.  The trouble is, over time students forget the meaning of words that they don’t use enough.

Looking to engage them in the words we’d accumulated, I took some of the ideas presented in Word Nerds by Brenda J. Overturf, Leslie H. Montgomery, Margot Holmes Smith that make words visible part of the student’s classroom life.  Every day this week each student got a word to wear . If they used it in conversation or in writing they gave themselves a point. If they used another student’s word they would also get a point. They could switch words  once they felt they got it.  The newness and gaming qualities did something to get them going. But, I think by simply putting it up front and visible made it top of mind. It gave permission to ask questions of their peers, to try it out and to try again. They wore their word to read aloud, to reading workshop, writing workshop and recess. I’m looking forward to continuing this practice-working on using what we have and developing some word ownership.

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Next: #WRRDchat: The twitter chat based on the book, What Readers Really Do by Vicki Vinton and Dorothy Barnhouse, was on Tuesday. Quite simply it rocked. Thanks to  Ryan Scala, Fran McVeigh, and Allison Jackson hosting many like-mined groupies of the book shared their thoughts and reminders of what it means to be a teacher who listens and coaches in to student’s wondering. If you don’t own this book, get it. It is something that simply will change your teaching approach from the query-filled stance of the all knowing, to the listener and coach that pushes students to wonder about what they know in the text they are reading. It honors the student’s thinking without butting in with our own. It promotes the fact that all students will come to understand text if we give them the room and time to find it. It reminds us that we are all on the path to knowledge, some are just not there yet. Read Fran’s recent post on the power of yet and get some insight into the book and the chat.

Next: The Cotsen Foundation. This year I have had the privilege of being a Cotsen fellow. This program promotes what the organization terms The Art of Teaching by looking to move teachers from good to great. Teachers can choose their focus and pursue that passion with support of a mentor coach (Michelle Baldonado @MrsBaldonado4 is mine) and access to many professional resources. Part of the beauty of this program is that teachers are valued as resources that  should be cultivated and nurtured through mentoring, observations and inquiry. This foundation honors teachers. Read more about this  program here.

Next: Fellowship Inquiry Work: One part of this program includes inquiry work with other fellows at your school. Our monthly meeting is one of my favorite times. We meet with no interruptions, and talk about our challenges, successes, and a professional text.

Our current read, Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions, has got everyone  excited. This book looks to move students to inquiry through their own questioning. Teachers create a question focus, not a question, and the students are taught a method to develop and prioritize questions from the focus statement. The focus can be determined in many ways, but it isn’t a question and it shouldn’t show teacher bias. The end product of content learning may vary based on need, but the universal end result, if done successfully, would be teaching students to question issues in a systematic way. If we choose to teach just one thing, the ability to question in a thoughtful manner, just might be the one.

Here’s to the weekend and a wonder-filled week.

The Game Changers

I started out doing a best of 2013 post, but that didn’t work. The whole year was a best of! This year the game changed..

THE GAME CHANGERS – IN THE CLASSROOM

Student Blogging – Blogging has changed the way students see writing. In fact they don’t think blogging is writing. Which in and of it itself is worth inquiry. Blogging is visible and social. The visible part is great for accountability, but the social part makes the difference. It allows for conversation.  One student, who loves to talk, said it made him feel like he was talking to someone else. I’m thinking that is a wonderful way to view writing.

Global Read Aloud –  The connections  made with other classrooms opened student  eyes beyond the small world of their school yard. Sharing one book was just the beginning. Reaching out to kids in different places led to unexpected understandings: timezones, weather, and the powers of technology that can bring us together. Thank you Erin Varley for being a wonderful partner in this work and Pernille Ripp for bringing it all together.

Genius Hour – Every Thursday, for one hour, students can research, learn, and create something that matters to them. This has provided a time for those who are not traditional learners to thrive in a place of their own making. It has pushed those who wait for the teacher to tell them what to do, to step up and push their own thinking. It is a reason for some to come to school. It is something they don’t need to be reminded of. It provides clues as to what their passions really are. Which leads to what book might interest them, what they might want to research or write about,  Read here for more about why this has been a game changer.

I love this  student’s perspective on blogging, Global Read Aloud and Genius Hour. It was my favorite present this year and shows how his game has changed.

No Reading Logs – This was my first and in the end simplest change to reading work. I always hated logs. I knew it worked only for a few, and those students were the ones who would read anyway. The majority either faked it or lost it. Now we record when books are finished. We keep track of our reading by logging finished books and making goals. So far this year my students have read on average 17 books. Some have more books read, some less, but all are reaching for their own personal goals. All are reading more, and without logs. Thank you Katherine Sokolowski for your post on Josh. That gave me permission and the courage to let go of daily logs and let reading not logging create readers.

Making Read Aloud Visible – This was a simple move that has changed the way read aloud goes. I simply purchased my read aloud as a kindle e-book and projected it on the Smart Board. Now students see the words as I read them. Now students see grammar, spelling, punctuation, even font changes and spacing that indicate meaning. Now they hear the text and see it. I love this. Thank you Paul Solarz for this tip and for making so much of your thinking and student work visible.

Making Writing Goals VisibleTCRWP writing checklists and Units of Study have been a big game changer. Students can can pinpoint areas to work on. Through self evaluation students know what they need to work on. The checklists have made this possible.

A Teacher Who Listens More Than Talks – I started the year wanting to let my students guide their learning. This required me to listen more and lean in with questions that spurred not shaped thinking. Keeping my mouth shut and my thinking undisclosed was goal solidified in the #WRRD(What Readers Really Do) chat.   These posts  Student Generated Questions, Read Aloud Inquiry , and  Celebrating the Process of Learning all point to listening more and learning alongside my students.

THE GAME CHANGERS — FOR THE TEACHER

Twitter – It has been said so many times already, but twitter has been the source of so many tangible and intangible things. To list everything would be impossible. I’m just thankful for it.

Blogs and Blogging- Blogs show me ways of thinking, teaching and being. Blogs have connected me to people, like minded souls who revive my teaching heart and purpose, who introduce me to new ways of doing things, who support me when I feel lost, who accept and welcome me as part of a community of thinkers and writers. I feel honored and blessed.

Here’s to more growth in 2014 and thank you to all who have helped change the game for my students and me in 2013.