My classroom is not a quiet, orderly place.
Students are constantly moving, thinking, talking, reading and writing.
I do my best to help my students find success.



April 30, 2011

Poetry Frenzy

I am very thankful for my public library!  Today I had a wide-eyed stare from the gal at the check-out counter.  "Wow, that's a lot of books!" she proclaimed.  Working as a team, we had the pile of titles back into my book bags in a flash.

At my school this week we are hosting a poetry night.  I am ready with books!!  We plan to read aloud poems, and have parents and children read poems together (and enjoy the great illustrations).  Then we will see what happens when children and parents write poems together.

Before all this happens, I get to enjoy my stack of poetry titles, many by authors I haven't read before.  I plan to post my favorites.

It may be April 30th, but I wish you ...
Happy National Poetry Month!

April 22, 2011

Student Blogs

I'm a teacher-leader and a teacher-follower.  I can get my colleagues excited about books and crazy ideas, but I'm really good at taking other people's ideas and running with them!

My fellow reading teacher, Michelle, was the first to start up student blogs on kidblog.org.  I was reluctant to follow her lead with my students because I had many doubts and questions: 
Won't they treat kidblog like that social media site where we all spend too much time?
What will they blog about?
Will they have enough to say and will it make sense?
Michelle set a high bar for her intermediate students, and they dove into blogging head first.  I was in awe.  I was jealous.  I set up blogs for my students immediately!  I have been so tickled by they amount of ideas and writing and wonderful conversations my students have been having.  They are so appropriate and respectful.  They want to share so much about themselves.

The best part of this blogging experience came when a current student logged into the kidblog site from home.  Her older brother is a former student of mine, and he was instantly curious and tried to blog when she walked away from the computer.  My student was frustrated, so she asked me to add her brother to the site.  Now this former student, the one who would cringe each time he picked up a pencil, has posted all about his favorite basketball team and their path to the championships. 
He has become a writer.  My students now see themselves as writers.
I couldn't be prouder.

April 20, 2011

Butterflies

I ordered the painted lady caterpillar kit.  My husband thought it would be wasted on our teens.  I argued that I owed it to them.  I was the mom that promised my girls long ago that I would let them "grow" butterflies.

Raising these caterpillars has been such a neat experience... better than I expected.

We took pictures of them as caterpillars with our zoom lens, and noted their growth.  Each morning we'd check to see which caterpillar had made a chryasalis, then we'd discuss which one might be next based on their size and eating habits.

Out of 11 chrysalides (new vocabulary!), we've watched 7 butterflies emerge.  Our evenings consist of watching the butterflies unroll their tongues to eat, hang on the side of the habitat, and flit around.  We've debated if the painted ladies are all one gender (how do you tell?) and if they are communicating with their wings.  I've loved every minute of our butterfly-centered conversations.

I'm so pleased with this experiment.  It's shown me how important it is to give your children experiences. 
This is definitely one I'm glad we shared.

April 17, 2011

Spring Blooms

Ahhh.... spring! Our weather isn't consistently great - rainy and windy one day, sunny and warm another.  My students aren't consistent either.  Reading fluently one week, then completely slowing down the next.  Somehow they don't let these valleys on the line graph stop their enthusiasm for learning.

The best thing about working with developing readers is watching them bloom in the spring.  This is the time of year that I don't have to pull them through text.  More of them are pushing themselves.  They've made such strides, and their confidence has increased.

I don't follow a set curriculum with my readers, but sometimes I feel like I haven't taught them nearly enough this year.  When my students get rolling, it's dangerously close to the end of the year.  I start to stress out
Then I stop and breathe.
 
I realize that it's better to do deeper thinking and understanding than to rush through a bunch of text.  I can't worry that we haven't gotten through enough lessons in my intervention kit.  The point of helping developing readers is to help them find books that they like, then another book, and another.

This is my renewed goal for the remaining weeks of school.

I like to tell my most stubborn students, "I can't make you love reading, but I can help you dislike it a little less."  It's time to plan some book talks!

April 13, 2011

Balance

A frown.  A smile.  A complaint.  A compliment.
A sarcastic remark.  A postive comment.
Finding balance can be hard when you spend time with children.
Children can bring out the worst in some of us, but they should bring out the best in all of us.  Children are always learning because of how observant they are.  Children learn how to act by watching others.
We are the adults.  We are their role models.

April 8, 2011

Love This Book, Loved That Dog

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech is among my top ten favorite books.  I have read it with a few of my small groups over the years.  This time Love That Dog might be a tricky read.  It's great for poetry month.  It's written in verse, and students can totally relate to Jack and his dislike of writing.  You might think, "Tricky?  Why?"  Well, it's about a boy, his dislike of poetry, and his dog.  Sniff.
Our black lab, Candy, lived to the ripe old age of 16.  She was a crazy puppy when we adopted her and chewed many things.  She didn't have great manners and nearly bit your finger when you gave her a treat because her eyesight was terrible.  These memories were conveniently forgotten when she was gone.
Loved that dog.
I warned my 5th graders that there is a sad part in the book regarding the dog.  I tried not to give anything away, but they caught on.  One student shared a sad dog story with the group.  I explained that I used to have a dog.  One student immediately recommended I get a puppy.  I replied that puppies make me tired!

I think this will be a great read for my small group of students.  It's too bad that most of them haven't experienced the happiness (and challenges) of having a pet.  I told them how excited I am to share this book with them.  It will be our first book and author study.  Wish us luck!

April 5, 2011

Assessment

Raise your hand if you love assessing your students!  (Anyone?)  I have to admit, I don't mind giving reading assessments.  (Surprise!)  I love to see what my students know and don't know.  Most of my students have definite gaps in their learning, and it's for a variety of reasons.  Some weren't ready for the skill when it was introduced, some have expressive language challenges, and some have short attention spans. Whatever the reason, my job is to help "spackle" as many holes as I can.  When I am able to give an assessment one-on-one, that's the best situation.  I take the time to talk with the student without others vying for my attention.  My students appreciate the undivided attention, and I'm grateful for the insights I gain about their personalities, families and life experiences.
The challenge I face is analyzing the assessment data to pinpoint what pieces of learning each student is missing.  The list of skills needed for some students fill a page, and this can be daunting.  My goal is to start with a short list of two skills or goals for each primary student.  I wonder if the materials I use with my primary students will meet their short term needs.... hmmmm... I wonder.....

April 3, 2011

Graphic Organizers

I love graphic organizers.  Why?  It brings a bit of organization to my teaching.  Most of my developing readers are right-brained and very creative.  I've learned that when we use a graphic organizer to note our thinking or retell a story, the students have more understanding which leads to deeper thinking and comprehension.