Tuesday, October 30, 2018

No More Dreading {Slice of Life}

"This is really helping me with my writing!" said the visiting second grade student as we transitioned back to our classrooms in anticipating of packing up and going home for the day.  He wore the biggest smile and melted my heart.  

At the end of the day, I kept replaying this sweet smile, face, and heartfelt thinking.  After four days, I had helped this student.  This conversation is the best form of formative assessment.  A student feels empowered.  A student feels successful.  A student feels his transferring of direct word study help is transferring to his writing.

As I reflected today about this quick exchange, I realized I can no longer dread this chunk of time in my day.  Three days a week our grade level is to provide and plan for an intervention/enrichment block.  Students who receive ELL, multi sensory systematic phonics, and sometimes speech are pulled for services during this block and no new learning is to occur.  Three days a week I'm offering reteaching for students who need support with word study.  My teammate is offering enrichment for students understanding our word study unit focuses.  It can be frustrating at times to lose these minutes with my students.  In the past our plans or ideas were complicated and hard.  We tried to mix up our students across four or five classrooms.  This year we've simplified.  We've focused on what this idea is truly based on; reteaching to offer more time and different ways to see learning and enrichment to stretch our learners who need more than the "program". 

I am grateful for listening closely; for hearing eight little words that turned dread into meaning.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for fostering this writing community.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Literacy Connection {Professional Development}

It's a Saturday morning and I drive to the neighboring school district to gather with new and old friends for a day of learning.  Except this kind of pd feels different.  It's not planned for me with someone else's agenda.  I chose to attend today.  It's not a conference with a plethora of speakers and I get to pick and choose my sessions and schedule for the day.  I do enjoy that format.  It's one speaker for the day.  The author of our book study for the year and I can't think of a better way to kick off a book study than working with the author - in the same room!

I am blessed to have spent Saturday with The Literacy Connection and Kristin Ziemke.  Kristin co-authored Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom.  Each time I hear Kristin I am inspired and motivated to use technology in a creative way to show student learning.  I'm motivated to use it as a means for collaboration.  I want to try something immediately.  

Here's a list of learning moments or words I hung on to from spending time with Kristin - 

"Some of the most important lessons aren't my lessons, it's what kids bring."

Visuals are tremendously important.  They educate, equip, and empower us.  Seeing information allows for a greater percentage of recall and travels to our brain much quicker than words.

I've always enjoyed visuals and was happy to learn text and visuals stimulates both hemispheres of the brain.  

I've seen quite a bit about sketch noting and haven't taken the time to find out more.  Kristin shared we are able to grasp information faster than traditional note taking.  I might have to play around with this.  

"It's not about the tech - it's about teaching and thinking not everything has to sparkle and be shiny."

Management Trick - screens go up and there's less collaboration.  Ask students to flip over iPads or close chrome books for learning moments.

Technology doesn't have to be overwhelming.  She kept on urging us to use less tools.  If we help our students learn one new thing each quarter and focus on a 80% creating 20 evaluation we'll be doing great things.

Anchor charts for technology workshop - work too.

Tech is about balance.  She suggested we hook the kids with the tech and bring them to the text.  

Monday, October 15, 2018

OCTM Annual Conference {Math Monday}

Getting to an out of town conference always takes a bit of work and once I'm there, I never regret going.  Last week, I gathered with other state educators at the annual Ohio Council Teachers of Mathematics for two days of learning.   The conference theme was Bouncing Mathematical Ideas Around: Connecting and Collaborating in the Rubber City (Akron, OH).  The two days were just that; connecting and learning from and with others.  It's hard to replicate everything said, seen, and pondered so I'll share ten highlights in no particular order.

Juli Dixon shared, when students don’t have access to a productive struggle that becomes an equity issue.  We need to think about just in time scaffolding and not plan for just in case.  Allowing space for productive struggle and discourse.  That discourse could be student to student and student to teacher. 

Many of us live in a time where we are asked to post essential questions and/or learning targets in our classroom.  Juli Dixon urges us to zoom out for these to prevent giving away the punch line.  This encourages discovery and exploration.  I'd like to think of it as a means for fostering inquiry and connections.

Juli Dixon and friends have a new book, Small Group, Big Gains: Leading Effective Pulled Small Group Instruction.  She shared some sneak peaks from it that really nudged my own thinking about math workshop.  The purpose for small group work is for diagnosis and differentiation.  Diagnosis lets us see and hear student thinking up close; discovering misconceptions and understandings.  Differentiation is a place for remediation and enrichment.  

She also suggested small groups aren't needed every day and grouping should be organized in a moderately heterogeneous way.  I loved hearing her support small groups are NOT ability groups.

C-R-A model; Concrete (models), Representational (drawings) and Abstract (equations) was highlighted in two of my sessions.  Both sessions reminded us that at any given time we have students sitting in front of us at each of these stages.

We want to use the CRA model to help build mathematical fluency.

Dan Meyer encourages us to bring surprise back to teaching mathematics.  Good stories have lots of surprises and surprise brings interesting learning.   He had us ponder, What is a mathematical surprise?  He stated, textbooks ruin surprise.  He urged us to make math class more like things our students like to do.

Numberless word problems is something to look at.

I participated in my first 3 Act Math Tasks and would agree the purpose of these activities is to engage our students, understand math is needed in real life and changes math feelings.

Working with numbers abstractly doesn't work...students need numbers in context.  Let's anchor it to How Many pictures and children's literature.

Friday, October 5, 2018

What if? Could it? {Poetry Friday}

What if I could sit here all day?
Could it slow the hustle and bustle?

What if I could watch the grass grow?
Could it make time slow down?

What if I could feel the blue water?
Could it bring my shoulders down?

What if I could paint the clear blue sky?
Could it capture this space in time?

What if I could hold this moment in time?
Could it bring peace within?

I'm working my way through and studying Poems are Teachers How Studying Poetry Strengthen Writing in All Genres by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater.   Each week I will let you know the technique of the week I've played with and a thought or two about the process.  

"Dress-up is a form of what if, as is playing in a blanket fort.  For a child anything is possible.  For a child, the world is full of what if.  As writers, we work to come back to that place."

I was traveling last weekend through New York State and stopped at my favorite rest stop to just see this view.  I had a couple of more hours to travel and didn't want to leave.  I had the first line of this poem right then.  The week got busy and I returned to this moment with a photo and pondered some more.  I love the quote above from Amy about working to find that playful state of what if.  I'm going to revisit this strategy and ponder being a bit more playful.

Thank you Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference for hosting Poetry Friday.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

I Am Human - A Book of Empathy

I knew I Am Human - a Book of Empathy by Susan Verdi and Peter H Reynolds would be beautiful, heart tugging, and filled with guidance.  The book begins with affirmations.  Affirmations are empowering; helping our mindset and mental wellness.  The book shifts to helping the reader understand that being human involves making mistakes, hurting others, and being hurt ourselves.  The authors give the opportunity for readers to think about three emotions; fear, timid, and sadness. I believe the illustrations will guide students to think about their own emotions of fear, timid, and sadness.  It's important we help children and adults navigate different emotions and realize emotions don't always last.  The reader is then presented with ideas for moving forward with examples of choices one can make to turn their feelings around.  The story ends with the best guidance of all; we are not alone and ways we are all connected.

As I finished reading this book yesterday in class, I was reminded how important repeated readings are for increased understanding and thinking.  A student asked me what empathy means when we finished reading the story.  I tried to explain it as the bell rang to end our day.  I spent time rereading the book and finding places where we can discuss and describe empathy tomorrow and on future revisits.