Thursday, July 3, 2014

Choice Words Ch. 1

So I started rereading Choice Words by Peter H. Johnston. The teachers from my school did a book study on this book a couple years ago, but I lacked the gumption to get up early and participate fully. However, this book has been sitting on my shelf and a colleague recently read Johnston's other book about language, Opening Minds. This inspired me to revisit Choice Words. I am barely into the book, however, and I'm thinking about the student-teacher exchange on page 4. The teacher starts by saying, "You said, 'I will to my friend, the car driver.' Does this word look like will?" Then the student responds, the teacher says something back, and they have a thoughtful conversation. In my experience, I will begin to say, "You said, 'I wi-...'" and my student cuts me off saying, "OH! WAVE! I MEANT WAVE!" Or sometimes, they will self-correct with another incorrect word, and keep guessing and I'm not able to have this conversation at all. It's like these kiddos have been questioned to the point that now they think they've done something wrong and are blurting out guesses just hoping to be right. I want my students to be able to listen to my questions and not automatically assume that I'm pointing out a mistake. I guess in the first example I gave above, with them self-correcting with the correct word, I could expand the conversation by asking, "How did you figure that out?" or "How do you know it's 'wave'?" In other instances when the student just blurts out guesses (usually my strugglers), I remind the student to slow down and thing about what I'm asking and what would make sense in the sentence/paragraph/story. 

Does anyone else struggle with this? 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Morning Work

So I've been thinking a lot about my plans for Morning Work this year. Our bell welcomes children to come into the school building at 8:15. Some students come straight to the classroom, but many students go to breakfast. I'm sure these are similar issues many teachers are dealing with. The kiddos who go to breakfast can come in as late as 8:40ish. So the earliest we can get started in our classroom is about 8:45. There's about half of an hour during which most students have the opportunity to participate in Morning Work. I want this time to be meaningful, but it can't be something that is required for everybody or required to be turned in. 

During the first month-ish of school, we do coloring and following directions activities. We use a set of coloring pages about a funny monster named Zeebo and his family. The kids LOVE Zeebo, and they can't wait to learn about the next member of his family. 
After we're through with the Zeebo papers, I thought about doing a weekly routine. This is what I've been thinking:

Monday - Picture of the Day journaling
Tuesday - Time for Kids
Wednesday - Wonder Wednesday
Thursday - Scholastic Weekly News
Friday - Boggle 

MONDAY - When I did Picture of the Day before, I would pick one of Wikipedia's Picture of the Day, and have the students journal about it. I made an anchor chart with sentence starters like "I see..." "I notice..." "This reminds me of..." "In my opinion..." There are plenty of pictures to choose from, but I know that National Geographic also does a Photo of the Day. I usually put this on a Mimio or SMART Notebook slide and it's on the board when the kids enter the room. It's fun to hear their "Ooohs" and "Aaahhs" for some of these gorgeous photographs. 

TUESDAY - Our school did a Time Magazine fundraiser of sorts, and we are getting Time for Kids for free this year! I'm really excited to try it because our grade has gotten Scholastic News for years, and we've wondered about switching to Time for Kids, but couldn't get a free trial to try it. I can't wait to see what this news magazine has to offer! Although the students will take home their copy of that weeks magazine, I will keep a copy in a basket as an option for them to put in their Book Bags for Read to Self/Someone.

WEDNESDAY - I'm going to have a Wonder from projected onto the board as the kiddos come in, and have them follow something similar to what WonderPhillips does in her Wonder Journals. I also plan to print out the Wonder articles using Print Friendly to have the kids read as a group. And I'll put one in a plastic page protectors for the student's Book Bags. 

THURSDAY - I LOVE Scholastic News. I love that it comes with Common Core aligned graphic organizers. The interactive white board games and videos are perfect! Again, the kids will take home their copies, and I'll keep a copy in a basket for their Book Bags. 

FRIDAY - This is the one I'm most nervous about. Is Boggle too hard for 2nd graders? I got my ideas from Miss Martin's Classroom. I'm so appreciative that she has examples of Boggle boards that are teacher tested (no accidental naughty words)! AND she uses Scrabble letters so that students can practice addition with words they create. 

I can't wait to try all of these with my second graders. What do you guys think? Does anyone do Boggle with their early elementary kiddos? 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dealing with common issues

I am teaching at Camp Invention again this year. If you haven't heard of Camp Invention, check it out! It's a really cool science camp for incoming 1st thru 6th graders. The kiddos get to take part in some guided science discovery "classes," and they get to do I CAN INVENT/TAKE APART in which they bring in some old electronic device (donated items are anything from computer hard drives to scanners to VCRs to motorized toys) and they get to completely take it apart. That seems to be everyone's favorite part. Later in the week, the children use parts and pieces from their device along with other recyclable items to create something completely new. 

I'm really lucky because I started by being a counselor for Camp Invention when I was still in high school. As soon as I got my teaching license, I was able to be one of the class leaders/teachers! This year, I am teaching the Ecoverse class in which the students learn all about the different elements of the earth (fire, sky, water, and earth) and participate in different team building exercises. 

At the same time, I am reading Teasing, Tattling, Defiance and More... by Margaret Berry Wilson. It is part of the Responsive Classroom library (surprising, right?). This is also on the heels of listening to Dr. Reggie Melrose speak, mind you. It's all about being proactive and intentional in teaching kids how to be social beings. I love Wilson's book because she gives you the developmental reasons kids may be behaving the way the are, gives you ways to proactively teach desired behaviors, and gives ideas of how to react when the undesired behaviors happen. The author doesn't simply say, "If you are proactive, these behaviors will never happen." This author lives in the real world of teaching and she KNOWS there are slip-ups. There are a multitude of scenarios and ideas to help teachers help struggling children. 

Okay so back to Camp Invention: I'm reading this book in the evenings and I brought it to camp to read during lunch. I got back together with the group of counselors and teachers before my next class, and boy, did I get an ear full about the next group I was going to have, and wow, did I really have to watch out for little Johnny (name changed for confidentiality) in particular! He had already stolen items from one class, completely disregarded instructions in another, and crawled into an ice cream freezer during lunch. "Good luck with that one!" they told me. "He's definitely something!" Instantly I start searching for the director. I'm wondering if he's autistic or diagnosed as something. As I reflect on this, I ask myself if it really matters. Do I need an ODD diagnosis? Will this change how I work with this child? Obviously, if there is some kind of insight it could help teachers/counselors out, but he's still a kid. He needs something. It was our job to figure out what it was. 

So, just having read one of the chapters in my book, I approached this boy, and I say the following sentence: "I noticed you climbed into the ice cream freezer. What happened?" HAHA! Seriously? It sounded so ridiculous. But, this language often works in breaking the ice and getting real answers. And he told me: "I just wanted to be alone in a dark, quiet space." Wow. Okay. So was he overwhelmed with the volume of lunch? Did he need opportunities to work independently? Was he in sensory overload? 

When he arrived in my class toward the end of the day, he sat by himself far away from the other groups of children. He started fidgeting with the technology I was using to present my information. I decided to give him a job to steer him away from "messing anything up." He thrived. He needed a purpose, which is one of the things Teasing, Tattling, Defiance and More tells us misbehaving children are striving for. He then proceeded to "take over" the technology and demonstrate ev-er-y-thing I was modeling under the ELMO. But, whatever. The kid was no longer having a meltdown and was actually participating.

I feel like reading this book and listening to Dr. Reggie Melrose helped me connect with this kiddo helping him enjoy camp. These resources have changed the way I could have reacted to this boy, and in turn, changed his behavior and possibly his outlook on this camp that would be going on for another 4 days.

Have you ever had an "aha" moment when you were least expecting it? 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

I'm baaaaaaack!

Wow. It's almost been a year since I last posted. I definitely did NOT achieve my goal of keeping up with my blog over the school year. 

School is out already, and I'll be taking up my summer tasks of professional development once again! 

I am signed up for multiple professional development opportunities this summer including Common Core Math, SMART Notebook, Google Docs, Tech Tools, Handwriting Without Tears, and an ELA opportunity hosted by my school district. I am also going to be helping my grade level team write some assessments in addition to teaching at a week-long Science Camp. 

My goals for reading this summer are to learn more about Guided Math and Math Work Stations. Some first grade teachers in my building are trying it, so I'd like to see how it works and if I can make it work in my classroom. I also want to revisit my favorite books, including The First Six Weeks of School. I actually purchased The First Six Weeks of School for a brand new teacher joining our 2nd grade team. I'm hoping she finds it as useful as I did and do! I also want to finish Teasing, Tattling, Defiance and More... Positive Approaches to 10 Common Classroom Behaviors (part of the Responsive Classroom model).

I just saw Dr. Reggie Melrose speak for the second time, and she never fails to inspire and impress. I will be reading her book Why Students Underachieve. She deserves a whole post devoted to her work, so keep an eye out!

What are your goals for this summer?

Monday, July 30, 2012

My Pleasure

I have to admit, I have not read the entire book, The First Days of School by Harry & Rosemary Wong. But the Drs. Wong say that you don't need to. They suggest you use it as car owner's manual -- and that's what I usually do. For the past three years, I've skipped around in this book and have come away with some really valuable knowledge. 

One of these pieces are:
"The Three Characteristics of an Effective Teacher
An effective teacher...
1. has positive expectations for student success.
2. is an extremely good classroom manager.
3. knows how to design lessons for student mastery." (pg 9)

My goal is to be that effective teacher... sometimes I feel like I'm close to meeting my goal, and sometimes (especially in the beginning of a new year), I'm not so sure. :)

The Drs. Wong also express the importance of greeting your students at the door to welcome them to a new day of learning. This is something that I feel like I'm GREAT at doing... for maybe the first quarter. I want to make sure I am at the door every morning this year! I love seeing their smiling faces as they see me each morning. It absolutely sets a positive tone for the day! ... Except for one thing - when they RUN down the hall at you. I hate starting the day with, "Go back and walk!" It will be a little different this year because I am going to be the last classroom in the hall, so I won't be telling students in other classes to, "go back and walk," it'll just be my own students. I'd like to make sure I say, "Good morning, Johnny. I'm so glad you're here. Go back and walk. Thank you." That way, I'm greeting him/her in a friendly manner, but they still practice walking to the classroom door. 

Having your name, room number, grade level and short message of welcome is also important on the first day. I was able to write my own letter of welcome to families that will be sent out on August 1st. In it, I told my students how to find my room. It was easy because I'm the last classroom on the right, but I told them the color of tiles outside the door, too. Hopefully, this will set my students up for success upon finding their classroom on the first day of school. 

I also LOVE how the Drs. Wong are sure to say "Thank you" after giving directions. This is something that was covered in one of my college courses as well. I find it to be effective when you do not wish to have the student argue or complain. You just give the direction and say "thank you." -- I will try to do this more this year. I will also try to include it on written directions as well. It's definitely a nice touch and leaves no room for unwanted feedback LOL!

I just skimmed the entire book, and I can't find this page, but I'm almost positive this came from The First Days of School. Maybe it is in a newer edition?
One of the other major points I've taken from this book is how to respond to "Thank you." Instead of saying "you're welcome" or "no problem," a person should respond with "my pleasure." What a difference! "No problem" totally negates what you did. "My pleasure" has such a nice ring to it.

How long has it been since you've read The First Days of School? What are your favorite things you've learned from this book?


Thank you so much to Joell at Totally Terrific Teaching for giving me this award -- my first one! 
Liebster Blog Award Rules:
This award highlights blogs that have under 200 followers. Here are the rules: 1. Copy and paste this award on your blog. 2. Thank the giver and link back to them. 3. Reveal 5 other bloggers and let them know by commenting on their blog.

My five:
1. Mrs. Lilly at Leaping Into First Grade
2. Lucia at For the Love of Teaching and Crafts
3. Rebby at Classroom Compulsion
4. Mrs. Thiering at The Friz in First Grade
5. Kayelyn at Miss Siverhus

I've also been given The Versatile Blogger award by Angela at Hippo Hooray for Second Grade! Thank you so much, Angela!

Here are the rules for the Versatile Blogger Award:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you
2. Include a link to their blog
3. Include the award image in your post
4. Give seven random facts about yourself
5. Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award
6. When nominating, include a link to their blog
7. Let other bloggers know they've been nominated

Seven Random Facts about ME :)
1. My favorite color is LIME GREEN! That's why my theme is frogs... 
2. I am obsessed with Dr Pepper, and it drives me crazy that at restaurants they ask, "Is root beer okay?" when I ask if they have Dr Pepper. A simple "no" would be fine.
3. I love Boxers! I have two puppies named Brody and Bentley, and they are both unusual. Brody is all white. Usually, white boxers are deaf and/or blind, but Brody is neither. He DOES, however, have allergy issues. Bentley is so dark, he's almost black. Boxers are traditionally fawn (light brown) or brindle (striped).
4. I just bought my first house and it is hard work! LOL!
5. I commuted to college for three and a half years out of four. 
7. I had an AMAZING student teaching experience, and I still keep in contact with my cooperating teacher. 

As for the 15 other bloggers, I would like to give it to the first 15 commenters on this blog post who haven't already received the award! So comment away!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Gradual Release of Responsibility

I am close to 15 pages into Reading with Meaning by Debbie Miller, and I've already had some pretty big "aha" moments. The main one is changing how I look at the Gradual Release of Responsibility model.

I used to have a print-out of this behind my desk:
1. I do, you watch.
2. I do, you help.
3. You do, I help.
4. You do, I watch.

I loved this. AND it fell so nicely into my weekly lesson plan:
Monday - I do, you watch.
Tuesday - I do, you help.
Wednesday - You do, I help.
Thursday - You do, I watch.
Friday - Assessment of what you do.

After seeing Debbie Miller at the Springboro Literacy Conference, and reading the first pages, I will be changing the way I teach strategies, AND the way I look at this model.

In her book, Debbie talks about taking 6 to 8 weeks to teach a strategy. I was taking one. WHAT WAS I THINKING? I was teaching many, many different strategies throughout the year using my one-week release of responsibility lesson outline. After listening to Debbie, Steph Harvey, and Cris Tovani at the conference and reading this book, I have definitely changed the way I will teach the strategies and the time I will take to do so.

Debbie takes David Pearson's steps, and outlines them like this:
1. Teacher modeling and explanation of a strategy.
2. Guided practice, where teachers gradually give students more responsibility for task completion.
3. Independent practice accomplished by feedback.
4. Application of the strategy in real reading situations.

How did I get such a butchered, simplistic version of this? There are no short-cuts! 

Miller pointed out that Pearson never meant for the release model to be done in exactly this order, every single time. There should be a catch and release of the model -- possibly all in one day, not a systematic escalation, day-by-day throughout one week. It should be an artistic dance throughout the day, week, and unit of teaching.

How do you use the Gradual Release of Responsibility in your classroom?