Category Archives: Teaching

Let’s Party: Celebrating Our Writers

Standard

The idea for this post was inspired by Anna Gratz Cockerille’s article,“Ending a Year of Writing With a Group Reflection”, from twowritingteachers.org, June 18, 2014.

person thinking

 

The whirlwind of teaching for the 2016-2017 school year is quickly coming to an end.  Teachers, on the whole, are a reflective lot, but in the midst of the busyness of daily teaching, it may seem hard to pause and reflect.  As the time to bid au revoir to our students approaches, what better time is there to spend a few minutes reflecting together on our past year of teaching writing within the Literacy Collaborative framework? Reflection is the key to becoming a reflective practitioner, and it is at the heart of a growth mindset.

MontgomerySchoolbus

 So…

Let’s party!  I am excited about all the growth I saw in my first graders this year…students who are able to write and write and write…students who consistently write 25-30 minutes daily…students who are plain excited about writing.  My biggest celebration is the ability of students to draw on a repertoire of strategies when writing.  Where I notice this most often is when students have choice writing time or when they are in the Writing MIL (managed independent learning centers). Students create something, such as a paper airplane, and then write a “how-to” paper to teach their friends how to make it.  During Share Out, they want to read what they wrote, they want to display their item with the accompanying paper.  That is authentic writing!  These students were drawing upon their understanding of procedural texts and how they work, especially the form of “how-to” writing.  Another students write and illustrate stories about an animal they know a lot about, using their understanding of informational writing.  Other students write stories with a strong lead; students add dialogue and descriptive words and sound words!  I’m celebrating because these students are using a repertoire of strategies when writing.  I’m celebrating because they are much farther in their writing practice than I thought they could be by the end of the year.  I’m celebrating because they are a community of writers.

While reflecting, the area I believe that needs shored up is an area in which I still struggle.  I struggle with having the writing not feel “perfect” at the end of the story.  All the theory about lifting the writer is in my head, and I really believe it in my heart, but–I will own this to teacher pride–it just doesn’t necessarily look like something that I think parents will look at and say, “Wow!”  I haven’t worked out how to balance the lifting of the writer and the final project.  Now, don’t get me wrong, we have “published” projects like the Franklin stories and the Awesome Author books (animal research writing), and the final projects are amazing, but the stories I’m excited about may not look like much to the “outside world.”  These everyday stories are the ones that show the fledgling writers trying out new strategies, taking risks, and being, oh, so excited.  Oh, well, this is definitely an area to shore up…at least in my own way of thinking.
As I reflect on next year, my goal is to integrate mentor texts more fully into my instruction.  I want to be like Carl Anderson and have a little stash of books ready to go in conferences.  Like him, I want to develop my go-to books, complete with sticky notes to mark the pages, pages with clear examples of powerful writer’s craft and elaboration.  My goal is to use those mentor texts to help lift my writers.  I’ll let you know how well I meet my goal next year.

I hope you’ll join me in a moment of reflection.

Clock Watching

Standard

7:30 A.M.

Clicking on the gmail envelope, my email opened. There was a notification reminding me of the get-together after school. Yes, I’m glad I’ll be going. It’s Friday, and I’m glad.

4:45 P.M.

I lifted my eyes to the clock on the wall. Quarter till five. Hoping my splitting headache would go away, I lifted my fingers and firmly massaged my temples. That book order took forever. Why was it so difficult the get that quote? It had been over an hour, and the clerk on the other end of the phone line had wanted me to give her every ISBN number. Aren’t they supposed to just be able to click on a title to order it? I wondered. Well, that was the last of the money that had to be spent by Monday anyway. Well, except for $4.24. The students will LOVE these books! A satisfied smirk broke out on my face. I can’t wait for the orders to come in. I guess, in spite of the frustration, it really was fun. Picking out books that my students loved when I was a Reading Recovery teacher was fun! Thinking about how wonderful it will be when these books are in the hands of guided reading group readers, my smile broadened.

Then, the lightbulb went on in my mind. Four forty-five! I’m supposed to be at that get-together. Is still there? Already 45 minutes late. Ugh! Why didn’t anyone stop in to remind me? Oh, yea…I was on the phone. I had been planning to leave right when the bell rang, but I got so distracted by that order that took so much longer than expected. I quickly gathered up my things, mentally noting that I’d be coming back the next day, and pushed the lock button on my office door.

Cl-click! Cl-click! Cl-click!  The car turned right into the restaurant’s parking lot. What luck! A parking space close to the door. I pulled in, jumped out of the car, and ran inside. There they are! They’re still here. I hurried over to where the teacher group was standing around chatting and watching the big screens. Fifty-eight to 58, our high school was tied in overtime in the first game of the state basketball tournament since 1999. Small talk mingled with the cheers and gasps of teachers as we watched our team finish overtime. Then, double overtime. Oh, to be young and have their enthusiasm. Claps and cheers! A three-point shot and then a blocked shot. We win!
Little conversations, some about work, some not, fill the air. I feel a little lighter connecting with colleagues.

6:05 P.M.

“I can’t believe how the time flew,” I said as I glanced at my wristwatch and reached out to grab my coat.  I need to make more time for this….

Barbara in the Bookstore

Standard

Last night, a friend and I decided to go to a bookstore to look for picture books for our Interactive Read Alouds. This always is a dangerous proposition for bibliophiles, even at a store that only charges half price and gives a teacher discount! Like Alice in Wonderland, it is easy to fall down the proverbial “rabbit hole” of buying books…

“How far did I fall?” you ask.

Happily, I set a one hour limit for our excursion, and, because, in a bookstore, I tend to feel like I’m shopping at a jumbled garage sale, I only left with two carefully selected books. I was well under budget, too. (Alas, my friend fell further than me…her wallet was emptied more than mine.)

“And…tell me what you bought,” you add.

Books for IRA

I bought one brilliant twist on a fable, Hare and Tortoise, by Alison Murray. I think my first grade students will enjoy the humorous rendition of this classic. Such playful word choices such as “…she trundles…she tootles…she tiptoes…” and clever scientific references like “The Tortoise-Slow and steadicus” and “The Hare-Leapus swifticus” make this book delightful. The colorful illustrations will charm the reader as well. I can’t wait to read it to my students to see their reaction. I’m expecting lots of laughter!

The second book I bought is Lost in the Woods, by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick, a fantasy book (where animals talk) that teaches how newborn fawns, who are born without scent, spend the first 2 weeks of life without their mothers. The animals of the woods try to help the fawn because they think she is lost. The exquisite photographs enhance the story by showing the beautiful woods in which the fawn lives. Hopefully, this gorgeous book will engage the listeners and teach about the life of a fawn and other forest creatures. My plan is to incorporate this book to support our informational writing unit.

P.S. I have $35 more dollars to spend on Amazon! More book information to follow.

I Will Be the Agent of Change

Standard

Trust is something that seems to be universally valued. Research suggests that increased trust correlates with increased student performance. Research reports that low-performing schools with significant gains have a perception of trust between students and staff. Even though trust is not the only contributor to student growth, it is there when there is growth.

https://goo.gl/images/7gxtHJ

Trust is something that seems to be universally valued. Research suggests that increased trust correlates with increased student performance. Research reports that low-performing schools with significant gains have a perception of trust between students and staff. Even though trust is not the only contributor to student growth, it is there when there is growth.

The questions for me, a literacy coach, become: How can I become part of the solution to growing trust in my building and with our staff? Over what do I have control? What can I do?

I believe trust can start with one. The Golden Rule (not in vogue so much these day, but it is foundational to my philosophy) could be a starting place. How do I want to be treated? How could I treat others the way I want to be treated?

Here are my thoughts:

  1. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Believe every teacher wants to do his/her best. Believe every teacher wants his/her students to succeed.
  2. Remember that we are all learners. It is OK not to know everything right now. It is OK to make mistakes and take risks. (Remember that I make lots of mistakes, too.) Give people space to grow and not be perfect RIGHT NOW! Let people take risks. Honor the process. Where is that teacher on the continuum of learning? Are they trying, even if not perfect, to learn…try out new things…be innovative…?
  3. Have the best interest of others at heart. Do everything I can to protect those interests.
  4. Do what I say I will do.
  5. Learn, learn, learn. Be competent in my job. Do my job with excellence.
  6. Be a person of integrity. Always strive to be honest.
  7. Be as open with others as I possibly can.
  8. Care about others. Ask about their lives, children, successes, difficulties...just care!
  9. Communicate effectively and openly.
  10. Be available.
  11. Invite others into the decision-making process, especially when the decision has an affect on them. Collaborate in problem solving.
  12. Be open to another’s ideas, even if it is the opposite of mine.

Trust is important to me. I remember times I felt that I wasn’t included or invited or cared about. I want to treat others differently so they don’t have to feel like I did.

I will be the agent of change!