Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Slice of Life

"Can we quickly run to Target before we go home?" I ask my mom while Emma crams a few more fries in her mouth.

"Sure," she smiles.

We quickly drive a few miles away. I am pondering why the leaves still haven't changed even though October is a few days away. Knowing that when the first freeze arrives my allergies will be gone. How I wish I had time to just sit, rest and enjoy nature...but not my life right now!

We walk into Target and I make my few purchases--one of them a new car seat for Gracie who is now almost 3 and has outgrown her other one. I get the bright idea to switch them out. I mean really it can't take that long right?

WRONG!! Emma and Gracie are in the front seats of my car while mom tries to read the directions to me and Emma is screaming at me to turn on Imagination Movers and Gracie is just upset because I am changing out her car seat.

30 minutes later I am sweating and exhausted, but achieved my goal. New car seat intact--check....unhappy Gracie--check...safe child--check!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Literacy Workshop is up and running....

My students have completed their first piece for me which I use as a baseline to create the rest of the nine weeks lessons. This year my focus is on making my conferring sessions count. Last year I felt so rushed trying to get to all the writers who wanted to meet with me, so I thought it through and came up with a schedule for my writers. I meet with six-seven writers a day Monday-Thursday. Then another six-seven students have an opportunity to visit with a "Guest Conferrer." Many times it is a parent who has volunteered to come in. I wrote a letter to the helper with their own conferring sheet and they meet with a writer also. So on a typical day 12 of my students (roughly 1/2 the class) talk about their writing with an adult. I love it!!! This week was my first week to start the "Guest Conferrer" and it has been a huge success. I highly recommend it. In fact, one day my principal was the guest conferrer and I called Student A up to confer with me and she said, "Well, actually Ms. S, I would prefer to meet with Ms. Sumner!" I giggled and explained while she was welcome to visit with Ms. Sumner, if there was time, I needed to meet with her because I had a special lesson in mind that was just for her.

If you would like to get this started feel free to adapt my letter and conferring records. The conferring record template was from Stacy and Two Writing Teachers and I tweaked it for my needs in the classroom.

Guest Conferrer Record for Meeting With Student

Classroom Helper

Parent Letter Asking for Volunteers
Parent Letter for Conferring

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Chapter 3 Collaboration

Chapter 3 What We Know About Collaboration

Okay, so who has the book The Conversation Club by Diane Stanley on their list of books to locate or buy?

Right away page 37 first paragraph, “...If we are truly sponsoring active learning, there must be many people talking and doing at once – not just the teacher. There is no realistic option; we simply must train kids to team, give them plenty of structured practice, and then trust them to work as partners.”

Eight Ways That Small Groups Matter

1. Small Groups Are Lifelike … group, crew, office, team, line, shift, or staff it is the reality of the working world. I am so focused right now with Writer’s Workshop at school that I am drawn to think of an author. Even though the work itself is isolating it must be done alone however to become something publishable it must cross many people’s hands to reach its final publication. More importantly it must have an appeal to readers to acquire real value.

2. Small Groups Generate Energy For Challenging Work … Strength in number comes to mind here. Haven’t we all seen this in our own classrooms? Learning is a social activity this is where the ideas flow and change and take shape.

3. In Small Groups, We are Smarter … “…through talk we can actually make new and better meaning together.” What kid have we met that doesn’t like to talk? Once again the key is the well-structured groups, procedure oriented, expectations clear, etc. The engagement is there and you achieve what they state, “Minds-on every minute.”

4. In Small Groups, Diversity Is an Asset

5. Small Groups Make Engaged, Interactive Learning Possible… Best Practice right? Enough said. I wonder if every teacher placed this three column chart of “Best Practice” ideals in their lesson plan book each week how many of them they could highlight as areas they covered?

6. Small Groups Allow Us to Differentiate Instruction… This is why we have this kind of structure. I can see that this needs to be implemented from the moment children arrive on our doorstep. From PK-12 grades. This is where I see possibly part of the reason we get students arriving in 6th grade reading at a 3rd grade reading level with all kinds of interventions but no growth. I wonder what kinds of differentiation is taking place in the classrooms they have resided in.
7. Employers Increasingly Require Small-Group Skills

8. Well-structured Small-Group Work Enhances Student Achievement-… Drum roll please! Research shows this to be the case that “well-structured small-group work raises kids’ academic achievement as well as nurturing effective work habits, attitudes, and skill. Research by Hammond’s shows increased student achievement in such diverse cooperative models as project-based learning, expeditionary learning, learning circles, complex instruction, reciprocal teaching, and more.

Here again the value of what we do. We need to put it on our web site tell our parents tell our students!

As the chapter unfolds I feel like I am in a laboratory with a scientist. Collecting the ingredients and creating a formula. I think the six dimensions needed for high productivity and morale is most interesting. I have never read this study and once again am thankful that someone has! The discussion about “off task” behavior is most enlightening. Once again we are seeing that all learning has its social component. I like the term “maintenance” and knowing where it peaks the beginning and end of the group’s work. So we should be expecting and embracing it. It is a sign that things are going well. I like the ideas they suggest on page 51. Give them two minutes to chat and warm up or throw out a warm up question to get them going.

Ahh the resistance movement we have all had those kiddos who, for whatever reason, don’t fit in or try to grind the wheels in motion to a halt. I love their newsflash…They don’t all bloom on our shift! So don’t let the unwillingness or unreadiness of a few kids dictate what will be happening in our classrooms. Malissa you and I saw this even in the last weeks of our social studies culmination project. We still had kids that weren’t doing their part, even trying to sabotage the work at hand. I do think the kids (in their groups) handled their unwillingness much better at that point and time and I guess we did too. I know we saw the value of small group work in our book clubs, writing partnerships, and socials studies work.
I look forward to your thoguths and onward to Chapter 4.