Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ways to End Our Stories

As we continue our revision process, my students worked on their endings. We talked about how stories about our lives need to have all the lose ends tied up nice and neat so that the reader has the complete story from beginning, middle, and end.

A few things we put on our chart for ending
  • our stories tie up all the lose ends.
  • can end the same way it begans (repeated line or phrase)
  • don't use "the end"
  • don't end in "happily ever after" that is reserved for fairy tales
  • reflect the mood of the author and what they were thinking
We looked at my writing and that of our mentor text.  Then I had students meet with their writing partners to discuss what type ending would work for their piece and then revise three different versions of an ending.  I have found that allowing students a time to play with words and work on endings in their notebooks  helps them see things from a different perspective and really use the notebook as a place to revise before putting it on draft paper.

Happy Revising!!!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

SOLC--It's the Little Things

I love my job. I love watching kids grow themselves as readers and writers, but I know I am missing out on watching my own kids grow.  Today as Emma and I came home with fries in hand from Mickey D's we heard Gracie playing in the backyard. I told Emma to go on outside and I put the "pile-o-stuff" from the day away.  Within in seconds I hear a small voice excitedly saying, "My mommy's here!! She's really here!! I love her and miss her!!"

My heart literally skipped a beat as I turned and eneveloped my Gracie goose girl.  She grabbed with all of her mighty might and kissed my face, "I love you Mommy! Miss you!"  She squeezed me and then told me to go play outside.

I miss her too when I'm gone. I hope my girls will understand when they are older that sometimes Mommy's work, but we make the most of it when I'm home!!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Art of Seeing Again

The revision process of writing used to be grueling and gut wrenching for my writers until we had George Ella Lyon speak at our school.  She brought the many revisions to her picture book Mother to Tigers taped together and had the students hold a piece until the completed strand decorated the entire media center. I remember being in awe that day as I looked at this published author and how she slashed through pages of prose to ultimately have the perfect edition of the book.  My writers were astonished as well. One of the conversations in our room after was how we use different lenses to revise. That  revising means to see the piece in a different way.  Today as I began this process with a new group of writers I explained that sometimes to grow as  a writer it hurts a little bit.  Letting go can provide a new opportunity for a better sentence or mental image for the reader.  Meaningful revision, albeit sometimes painful, opens the door for a better writer and a published piece worthy of celebration.

from Flickr Creative Commons

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

SOLC-Thank You Mommy

You too can participate in a slice of life at
Princess lovin' Gracie. All things glittery, tiaras, scepters. My princess.  I have been on the hunt for Cinderella. I had sticker shock when it cost 35.99 for a dvd.  Last week on Amazon, I was getting a new book for my classroom and decided to just see if there were any used ones cheaper.  Guess what!  I brand new store opened and had the platinum 2 disc set for 19.99.  It arrived in the mail 2 days later.

"Guess what Gracie!"

"Yes, Mommy."

"I got you Cinderella the movie!"

"Oh, thank you mommy." She squeezes me tight. "I love you soooo much!"

My three-year old dirt dauber princess sat and watched the whole thing.  Uninterrupted.

It is true. Cinderella is perfect. Perfect for us!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Conferring With My Writers

Conferring time has become one of my favorite pieces of the writer's workshop.  It's taken me a few years, but I've finally figured out what works for me.  I make appointments with all my kids M-TH.  Each day I meet with 5-6 students.  These are the same each week.  Before I begin conferecing I ask if anyone would like to sign up for a conference. If I have a list, I will try to get to them after I finish with my scheduled appointments.  Typically at the beginning of the year not many students request one, but by the end of the year it can get quite long. The format I use when keeping notes is below.

Basic Conference Form for a Student                                                              

During my conferences, I stick with teaching one thing. This one thing will need to be something that will make them grow in their writing craft.  We discuss their writing goal and look for evidence that they are working on it withing the piece they share with me.

This time is something that I have grown to cherish. What is your favorite time in writer's workshop?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Drafting A Piece

On Friday, my students and I began looking at the ways we use our notebooks on a daily basis and deciding when it was time to move from our notebook to drafting a lesson.  My activity idea stemmed from a post last year from Two Writing Teachers.

As we began to brainstorm what works in our notebooks and how it looks different outside the notebook. I realized how far these kids have come in four short weeks.  As we began to discuss the importance of choosing a seed idea to grow their excitement began to take over. At this point in the workshop I stopped and we made the plan for our writing time together and I was then able to watch as my fifth graders dialogued with their writing partner about their notebooks and why certain entries are in the running to draft and others were not.  By the end of the 20 minute session most of my students had an idea and were writing away adding to the entry and discussing with their partners how to make it better.

This next week students will be drafting and honing in on their writing craft in whole group and small group instruction.  I will also meet with kids daily to confer about their writing and growing real writers.  Where are you at in writer's workshop? Generating ideas?  Honing the craft through drafting?  Publishing? 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Awesome site:Tagxedo

I love Wordles, but it's very difficult to save. Here is a great site TAGXEDO that does the same thing!! So excited to use this with my students. I made the word cloud below using the text from this site.

My Own Writing: Draft One

Working on a presentation not as an educator, but a parent.  The presentation is for special education staff and informing them of how it feels in the parent seat.

Shhh…It’s a Secret
I can’t allow myself to think and feel the reality of what it means to have a disabled child.  I can’t allow myself to stop and listen to my heart break as the dreams I had for her before she was born float from my grasp daily. I can’t allow myself to let anyone see that I am not as strong as I pretend to be when dealing with the dailies of our lives. I can’t allow myself to believe that the only job she will have is sweeping up trash. I can’t allow myself to stop fighting for one minute because the world will believe that I too have given up on her.  I can’t allow myself these thoughts. 

The thought that this child could have died before she was even born. The thought that when people see her they don’t see a child, but a child born broken with too many chromosomes and too many doctors and too many problems.  The thought that she will never leave my home. The thought that I will always have a child with the emotional IQ of a six or seven year old.  The thought that if I die her life would never be the same because others might not be able to see her potential. The thought that she will be the butt of someone’s joke and not even be aware. Instead smile at them because they are smiling too.  The thought that her three year old sister already talks circles around her and she is half of Emma’s age.  The thought that people see a happy Downs kid instead of a child who chooses to smile in the face of adversity when she should be whimpering at the task ahead.

 I want people to realize that each day and each night I face the reality of my world of the disabled. Sometimes it crushes my heart and soul and I can hardly breathe.  Often times it looks like I’m angry, it looks like I’m in pain, it looks like I’m afraid,  but often it is the overwhelmingnes off it all.  Often times I think will she ever read?  Will she always refuse to write?  Will she have friends even when she pushes them and hits them?   Do teachers and other parents understand that each time I talk with her about her misbehavior I wonder if she truly understands because she can’t tell me if she does?  Do I even know how to be a parent? I didn’t expect parenthood to be easy, but I never thought it would be this hard.

I wonder if other parents feel as I do.  I wonder if they too fear that their child will be ostracized and made fun of because her eyes are shaped differently or her gate is jumpy or her speech is slurred?  I wonder if I am alone with worry about her future?  Do they wonder if she will be able to cook for herself  or live alone or drive a car or find the one true friend of a lifetime?  Do other parents grieve when their kid can’t ride a bike or swim or refuses to eat because she can’t stand the texture of meat?  Do other parents want to cry at back to school night when you realize she will not accomplish ¼ of the objectives for first grade? 
I can’t allow the fears, the worries, the what ifs to consume me.   I can’t allow myself to stop and pause. If I did my heart would break.  Instead I put up my walls, I walk proud and strong even if it is a fa├žade.  I do not show my shaking hands, my weary heart, my tear stained cheeks. If I did, what would those teachers say?  I don’t want comfort. I don’t want pity. I just want my kid to be normal.  The problem is I am that teacher. I am her.  I know normal doesn’t exist, but I would give anything to have it.

My job as an educator is to have all the answers on how to properly educate a child, yet, I often feel at a loss as to how to help my own child learn.  I know the data, research, and best practices. I can recite them in my sleep and teach them daily, but I am faced with the realization that I fear nothing will  work with my kid. I fear that she will be a statistic.   A number.  Someone who exists, but does not contribute to society.  Some of my fears are rational…most are irrational, but yet they are there in the back of my mind when I read every email, answer and return every phone call, attend a parent teacher conference, look into the eyes of her teacher and lie when I say I think it’s going to be the best year. Because when it comes down to it I am just a mother. A mother of a fantastic kid who happens to live with a disability.  The fears don’t win everyday. So please when I come in and act normal, crazy, sad, happy or just funny understand these fears are also there.  We just don’t tell.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mentor Text

Today my students and I looked at the book Saturdays and Teacakes with the purpose of what can I learn as a writer from this author. We discussed how when we read we can use a writer's eye and see what lessons we can learn from the author.  A few things we discovered that we want to work on this week

  • our writing has meaning
  • our writing should create mental images so our reader can picture it
  • we write to remember
  • we use similes, onomatopoeia, alliteration
Our  focus this week is realizing that our writing must have meaning for the writer and a message to the reader.   With small moment writing this is a key piece to the concept. The piece must have meaning.  Meaning is getting to the heart of the story. So I ask you, what message are you sending your readers today?  What is your idea to the world?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Monday Musings

Remembering the past is vital to our being. Honoring those that have fallen a patriotic tradition. The fifth graders I teach now did not experience September 11, 2001.  How I remember that year. My first year teaching.  The realization that everything changed in one moment.  I was headed to Jenks Wild (an environmental camp) and it was three days before I saw the horrific pictures of people jumping out of the towers and the airplanes heading toward the towers.  Nothing prepares a person for those images.  My question is how do you delicately teach this to students who are so impressionable? This wasn't a video game. People died.  Perhaps it can be taught through my writer's workshop--through a memoir entry.  Our lives as Americans changed that day. I hope the zealots wanting to burn the Quran realize that burning this book will not bring the people who died that day or in the Wars back.  We have spent nine years trying to heal.  Let's continue it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Goal Setting

After spending time getting to know my students and completing my pre-assessments for the district, (STAR and I did an on demand writing piece) my students are working on reading and writing goals. We are talking about what strategic readers do as they read and what good writing looks like, sounds like and how it makes the reader feel.  We talk about how not only do we need to have goal, but a plan to put it into place.  My district uses Quality Tools and one of my favorite tools for goal setting is the Plan-Do-Study-Act. 

For reading we begin with  a chart entitled "What Strategic Readers Do" and go from there. Then I have each child work through their strengths and weaknesses as a reader. Next, they write their own goal with a plan of action. We review it together during our reading conference. I will go back to this as we continue to meet throughout the nine weeks. (Keep in mind I am also writing my own reading goal with them. So they see me work through the process also)

In Writing, we brainstorm what 5th grade writing sounds like, looks like and how it makes a reader feel as they read it. Then we make a class goal for writing for us to accomplish by the end of 5th grade.  After I've modeled with the class goal,  they write their own goal.  This tool is great to use because it keeps the students focused on one area to grow, much like our writing conferences.  My writing conference begin with Let's take a look at your goal and what are you working on as a writer to accomplish it. 

We revisit the goals during writing conferences and at the end of each published/graded writing piece. With reading we revisit during reading conferences and after we take the STAR assessment.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Data Driven Instruction

Do you know how to take the guess work out of instruction? Using Douglas Reeves' work to support my formal and informal assessments allows me to know exactly where each and everyone of my students are on the curriculum continuum. There is no reason to make "guesses" as to where my students are on their educational journey.  Making data decisions is easy using a variety of formal and informal assessments.
  • STAR reading scores
  • exit cards
  • reading conferences
  • writing conferences
  • grade level rubrics
  • using classroom work to decide the next day's lessons
My assessments are ongoing and mostly informal. My two formal assessments are the STAR reading scores and the grade level rubric. This data will help you understand where your students are and where they need to go. So take the guess work out of the next day's lesson and use data driven instruction!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Best Practices and Testing

I was the guest blogger at Two Writing Teachers today. Please check it out. Also pre-order Ruth and Stacey's new book from Stenhouse.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I Have Classroom Bloggers

Today my students launched their on-line blogs. I could not have done it without the help of Mrs. G! My students are very excited about their new blogs. I am sure we have hiccups to work through, but I am so proud of them for being patient and listening attentively.  The exciting thing for me is that some of my students who weren't so pumped about at home writing are now very pumped!  I highly recommend Weebly's services!!!