Saturday, March 31, 2012

My OLW for March...

Education is always changing.  New acronyms are always being created (IEP, DRA, RTI, OMG :).  Budgets are always discussed.  Common Core State Standards are in and individual state standards are out.  Yet through it all, I spent March listening to things that NEVER change...
1.  Stickers on a paper make everyone happier.
2.  A good lunch always puts a teacher in a good mood.
3.  Students will always love being read to.
4.  Teachers still carry bags to and from school even if they know they will not take them out of the car that night.
5.  It is cool when a meteorologist visits your school!
6. And... we still appreciate Dorothy Frayer and her colleagues at the University of Wisconsin for developing the Frayer Model back in 1969ish (Don't quote me on that one!)

I brought back the Frayer Model this month.  I did listen during my times in undergraduate classes.  I did listen when I used the Frayer Model as part of my master's project.  And now I am dusting it off and listening to it again.  The Frayer Model....remember it?  A graphic organizer that gives students a place to thoroughly understand a new word.  It gives students the opportunity to elaborate characteristics and determine what it is or is not through examples from their own knowledge.  My students have been using this organizer during word study and it never goes out of style.  It still strengthens understanding. still gives students an avenue to thoroughly examine a word that is important to them.  See I did pay attention in college! Some things never change!
A student changed her model a bit...definition, IS NOT examples, a picture and looking at syllables.

Status of the...Reader's Notebooks

Every year I play with and change the way I organize things in my classroom...looking for that one magical way that will finally work.  Binder? Notebook? Technology?  I reexamine the pros and cons about where to hold assessment data, where to put notes taken during strategy groups, how and where I want my students to hold their thinking while reading.  Every year I make changes. I have discussions with colleagues about what they do. I reread professional books that have touched my teaching journey in some way. And what did I finally realize this is not about me (that was a hard one to accept :), it is about the students you have "now" that will make it successful or call for readjustments.

I start the beginning of each reader's workshop with Status of the Class, but the first day after spring break I decided to do something different.  I did "Status of our Reader's Notebooks."  I asked my students to talk a walk through their notebooks to see the kind of thinking they were holding on to.  We shared with a partner.  We compared.  We "oohed" at thinking that we had not thought of doing while reading.  So...this anchor chart was born.  We titled it, "Ways to use our reader's notebooks."  We even did one for fiction and one for non-fiction.  We copied examples and colored coded them to match the "focus" of our thinking.  I can not believe the level of thinking that students were holding on to and their sense of "urgency" for doing so.  Each student develops their own plan.  I model and guide strategies during mini-lessons, but the class has the choice to use the ones that they need.  This mini-lesson ( was not "mini" lasted well over 15 minutes and was not like a football huddle.  It was more like the post-game show after a football game) has rejuvenated our thinking on how to use our notebooks and ways that we could challenge our thinking.  I am excited to see what new "jots" develop after looking at all the possibilities!

Remember..."Read with a pen in your hand and enter in a little book short hints of what you find that is curious or that might be useful; for this will be the best method of imprinting such particulars in your memory, where they will be ready on some future occasion to adorn and improve your conversation." -Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The power of words...

Three-quarters of the year has passed...3/4, 75%, 75/100.  Where has the year gone?  Back in October, one of my students said..."We should make a Top 10 list of things that our teacher always says and put it on a t-shirt."  Often they comment, "that one should go on the list."  As I have been watching this group of fourth graders, they have been inquisitive, motivated, thoughtful, caring, and just plain old fun.  I thought about our sense of community and how it will be sad at the end of the year. my effort to "listen" more this year... I asked the students what would actually make it on our "Top 10" t-shirts.  I braced Peter Johnston says in Choice Words...

"Children, in their own ways, teach us about the language of our classrooms."

This was my chance to listen to myself...and here it is...their Top 10 List for me!

1.  Questions, comments, concerns...
2.  Access denied (my frustration with our website filter at school...this is the message you receive)
3.  Opinions are like belly buttons, everyone has one.
4.  Get ready for Status!  (Status of the Class...the beginning of Reader's Workshop).
5.  Pumpernickel  (my desperate attempt to come up with a word when I drew a they say it all the time and have coined it as my classroom password)
6.  Reading is inhaling, and writing is exhaling (How happy was I to hear this one!)
7.  Has anyone seen my diet coke?
8.  The phrase "next stack" (for books to be read next)
9.  What do you think you know, what do you know, what do you wonder? (This is my opening to whenever I use Wonderopolis)
10.  Tough cookies!  (my attempt to overuse an idiom)

So...what did I learn?  The students are listening.  The power of my words can help create a sense of community.  I was so excited to see humor on the list, wondering on the list, reading on the I am wondering why there are no phrases that involve math workshop? :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March Madness...Word Study...Elite Eight!

I shared a few days ago my brainstorm for integrating March Madness with word study.  On Monday, each student selected their own version of the Sweet Sixteen.  Their words came from read alouds, the "My Words" section of their reader's notebooks, their word study notebooks, and also just some favorite words that they enjoy saying.  Today I presented the first challenge...the word with the greatest number of syllables.  The tiebreakers...largest number of vowels, largest number of consonants, and if you still needed a tie breaker...alphabetical order.

The best part of the lesson was the "sharing".  We had discussions about why many tie breakers involved not only the same number of syllables but also the same number of vowels (every syllable has a vowel).  We discussed when "y" is a vowel and when it is not.  Discussions also occurred on disappointment for a word being eliminated, happiness for a word staying, sharing words that were on a list that were not on your own list, and...anticipation for tomorrow's challenge!

PS...Go Buckeyes!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Let's be honest...

Today was just one of those days.  As I looked over at the Ohio rain coming down, indoor recess, the calendar reading Monday....(I could go on), I caught that one glimmer of light at the end of the rainbow.  It was my Next Stack of reading.  I leave my Next Stack out for the kids to see so they know about my reading life too.  This Next Stack was calling my name...girl scout cookies, a comfy blanket, a good book, a comfortable chair...oh...spring break can not come soon enough!  Time to make time for my reading life!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

March Madness...Word Study...think quick!

What do you get when you think about the Ohio State Buckeyes winning their first game in the Big Ten Tournament last night and March Madness Basketball coming next week?  You get word study for the week!

I have decided to use the typical March Madness "brackets" as the main basis to my word
study this week.  One thing you may not know...I love college basketball!  This is my favorite time of year!

There were some skills that I have been wanting to review or dig a little deeper March Madness Word Study Style has been born!  The students will look through their Wonder Word notebooks, the "My Words" section of their Reader's Notebooks, look at past jots about words, think about favorite words, (I know one of my kids will pick...pumpernickel) and come up with 16 words to put to the test!  After the initial 16 words have been determined by each student, I will present a challenge each day.  The two words in the bracket will go face-to-face...and the winner will go to the next round.  I am actually writing this as I brainstorm, but as of right now...

Challenge 1:  The word with the most syllables by syllable swooping.
Challenge 2:  The word that contains the most multiple definitions in the dictionary.
Challenge 3:  I am going to give a 5 minute brainstorm...which word can generate the most new words off the word ?  For example...if it was "test"...detest, retest, testify, testy, testing, tests, testimony
Challenge 4:  Hmmm...something about context clues...or synonyms/antonyms
Challenge 5:  Each person will share the "winner" of their bracket by creating a poster of the word that includes...the word, a picture of its meaning (hand-drawn or from a a collage), a sentence, and a list of words that can be built off of it.  We will then add them to our "Wonder Words" bulletin board.

Yay!  Fun way to celebrate words, revisit some old favorites, and to review a few skills from "their words", "their writing", and  "their reading".  Let the Madness begin.   

PS...Go Buckeyes!!!!!
PSS...Now I am could I use the brackets to have books go "head to head"?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

WONDER meets picture book...

Have you ever had one of those days where two things come together...totally unplanned? It was as if Wonderopolis had skyped into my classroom, heard a wonder, went quickly to work, and produced #522 just for my class within 24 hours! Now that is service!

Here is a link to a booktrailer.
My class used, Cloudette, as mentor text for a mini-lesson on conflict/turning point/resolution....examining words that an author used to signal these points in a story.  Although this book was about a "small cloud that wants to do big and important things", it was the comments and word play from the "other" clouds that brought laughter to my fourth graders who are currently studying weather.  In the story, Cloudette had an idea to puff up and do something she has thought about doing for ages...letting it pour.  As we reread it during science, students were noting the parts of the water cycle, the types of precipitation, the word play with science vocabulary, and the classification of clouds. student asked..."I wonder how much rain a cloud can make."  Then...poof!  Like magic...number 522 appeared today, "How Much Rain Can a Cloud Hold?", just as we were beginning to check for our daily weather readings.

Wonderopolis has been an amazing resource during our unit on weather and weather patterns.  Here are some wonders that we have used...
#231- What does a barometer measure?
#329- Where does fog come from?
#60- Why do different states have different weather?
#471- Why do you see your breath when its cold?
#494- Why is ice slippery?
#287- Why does it hail?
Thanks Wonderopolis!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Picture books with a purpose...

Remember the saying...
 " If you love someone, set them free.  If they come back they're yours; if they don't they never were."

How I interpreted it today...
"If you read a book, keep it in your collection.   If you come back to the book... it has made an impact; if it has developed a purpose... read again with eyes wide open."

A teacher came into my room today and asked if I knew a book that would support teaching conflict and resolution in a "right there" sort of way.  I went to my shelf and pulled out one of my old favorites...then the pulling began.  I was pulling books off of the shelf with a nostalgic feel.  I was remembering books that I had read in the past for that purpose, but began to think of several more purposes for just that one book.  Then, I felt bad...books begin to become labeled in our minds for one teaching point and I need to remember to make time to reread those books and look past that one point to be open to all of its possibilities.  Here are a few of my "oldies, but goodies" that I am rereading tonight...ready to think again.

Monday, March 5, 2012

We were in a rut...

My personal reading had slowed down.  Making time for my reading life was becoming nonexistent.  A few weeks ago I was hurrying to bed to read a few chapters or reading countless blogs after my own kids had gone to bed.  But now my head was going straight to the pillow with thoughts of the branches of government, the water cycle, and decimals on my mind.  I had put reading to the side and I felt like something was missing.

I also felt like something was missing in my classroom too.  Almost three-fourths through the year, my students now have reading workshop down to a tee.  We have come to know ourselves as readers, we have "next stacks" waiting, we know many ideas about other readers in our room,  but our routine had become just that...a routine.  My students have read more books this quarter than previous quarters.  Their stamina for reading workshop could go all day, but I felt like something was missing...

So what do you do when you are in a reading rut?  Well..I sat back and watched over several days.  What I noticed were students sticking to their next stack of books, many of the same titles were in the hands of different readers (just being passed around), not as much "buzz" during their reading, my share time had been reduced to five minutes, and several baskets in the library had been untouched for a while.  Something just did not feel right so...

I tried several things over the last few weeks. By the end of last week I felt that reading workshop had been rejuvenated.  And the personal reading life had too.  I had gone back to what I had always known, always done, but stopped making time for.

1.  Book trailers-  I showed several book trailers for books that were in the "lost but not forgotten" baskets of our classroom library.
2.  Read- We had a "drop everything and read" moment.  I gave them an uninterrupted amount of time to just read.  Time to finish the book they were in, time to look for new books, time to start a book and get in deep.  Many students told me how it was "just what they needed"...especially when you can wear pajamas and bring in a sleeping bag.
3.  Donate- Our school encouraged students to donate gently loved books to Nationwide Children's Hospital (a schoolwide community project initiated by one of my teammates).  The students showed so much enthusiasm about their reading lives as they brought in books to donate, and also showed so much passion for particular titles that they were not ready to part with.
4.  Mini-lessons-  Mini-lessons on "putting books on pause" because you can't wait to read a new book from the book fair and how to come back to a book you have left for a while.
5. Time-  I made time.  I gave myself permission to go to bed early and just read (even if a pile of papers went ungraded).
6.  Blogging- I reached out to the blogging world.  I spent time looking for new blogs that would encourage myself and my students to look at reading "a little" different through new titles and reading about other's reading lives.

So it was just a rut.  I had fallen victim to no snow days ( snow in Ohio??), the pressures of getting in a deep curriculum, and I neglected to make time for the one thing that matters most to me.

Moral:   Accept the things I cannot change, have the courage to change the things I can, and to have the wisdom to know the difference between the two.