Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Power of Choice in Writing - OLW Reflection

W.5.7. Conduct short research projects that use several sources to build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.

Enter Magic School Bus.  Who doesn't love Miss. Frizzle and their far out adventures? After several mini lessons on non fiction text features, I told my class it's time for their first research of the year.  You could have heard a collected sigh from my students. Even, "On no not yet Mrs. Caplin."  I played along for a few moments telling them they would have to research about their favorite president or season.  "Ugh..." to say it politely.  

I then passed out the Magic School Bus books again and asked them if they would like to write their own little book modeled after Magic School Bus. Sighs turned into cheers and then it got even louder when I told them they could choose their own topic and would become a published author, "Who me? Really? How?"  

Some of the topics included:  hockey, Eiffel Tower, monkeys, headphones, pocket watches, music, Empire State Building, remote control cars, and fiber optics. The icing on the cake was reading this page in her book.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Celebrating This Past Year

It's my birthday, and I'm celebrating the life lessons from this this past year. The older I get (52 today) the more my perspective (OLW) changes. Life gets simpler not easier. When I think about this past year, I realize moments of celebration are always around my family and occasionally my career.  I am perfectly fine with that.  I'm celebrating

  • text messaging and face time (with our daughter in SC) it's like she is never too far away - although there are several days I wish it was a shorter drive to visit her
  • life lessons learned as our son is a senior at The Ohio State University and the opportunities as we continue to help him grow.
  • a wonderful new group of fifth graders - everyday we learn side by side. I'm on the floor more, I'm inquiring more, and best yet I'm slowing down more.
  • our home, for 20 years, I am always thankful as I pull in the driveway and cross over the creek especially at this time of year which is another celebration
  • LOVING autumn celebration of colors, cooler weather and my pumpkins!!
  • my grandfather who was and continues to be a strong influence in my life. He helped me to find my passion in choosing to live in the country "You have to have water on your property." "You need to get back up on the horse." "Walk the lane and get us lunch" as we're bailing hay. 
Thanks to Ruth for encouraging celebration here is the link up

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Slice of Life My OLW

My #OLW reflection really hit me as I drove home today after school! I am celebrating putting the brakes on today in class. I started the day with a list of students who I needed to conference with from last week. It was after lunch and my list was still sitting there. I knew I wanted to find them but my lesson plans had other ideas.  I looked at my list for the fourth time after I finished read aloud.

I just couldn't do it...I decided that we would have extended time choosing SSR or continued writing in WNB.  You could have heard a pin drop. M. replied, "But Mrs. Caplin we already had time to read we never get it twice." With a huge smile, I replied, "You do this year." And they cheered.

So many times, way too many times, I have forged ahead with my LP. I always get stressed and if I'm honest I know that the lesson I taught wasn't the best. I am choosing to slow down this year. I am choosing to focus on students first. After all it is really easy to draw an arrow in the LP box to the next day.

Side note: I didn't even plan on blogging tonight. Left my computer at school. I composed on my iPad - wow I'm still a learner.  Thanks Two Writing Teachers for encouraging me.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Celebrating: Letting Go!

let go the first day of school.  

  • I was nervous to leave the supplies open ended, they were thrilled.
  • I was hesitant that everyone would be included, everyone was successful.
  • I was leery when I gave only one direction "Build the tallest free-standing structure" they worked together to build their structure.
  • I wanted to "jump in" and make suggestions, I kept quiet.
  • I wanted to offer encouragement, but I knew that would be teacher "approval."
  • I wasn't sure of the connections they would make, and they made better connections that I could have imagined.
We discussed their learning experience and created the chart above.  I asked them what did they learn as a team?  We connected these ideas to our new school year.  I was impressed with the last one: say something positive first before you make a suggestion.  WOW!  If we accomplished that on day one I think we are set for the year.

TAKE AWAY:  When we step away and allow our students the opportunity for open ended learning (projects, #makespace) there is more commitment and ownership.  Students find creative solutions and most of them I didn't even consider.  I'm excited for the opportunity to continue challenging my students and learning along side them.  It's going to be a GREAT year - Let's celebrate!  Thanks to Ruth for reminding us to celebrate every week. Here is the link for this week.  I'm always thankful for our Saturday time together in the blogging community.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Letting Go - Celebrating Creativity

After reading several blogs, attending Dublin Leadership Academy and having several conversations with colleagues, I am embracing the idea of “letting go.” I spent the summer with my #OLW: reflection.  Thinking about how I can let go and as important allowing students the choices they need to be more independent.  Every step doesn’t have to be planned and every outcome doesn’t have to be known.  I’m doing a little self-talk: take a breath; if you know me this will be a huge learning curve. A focus area for me as a learner and a teacher is going to be celebrating creativity

It’s important to build on what I know. I know the center of our classroom will still focus on inquiry and wonder, which goes hand in hand with allowing students choice especially with collaboration and the opportunity to create. Wonderopolis will continue to be my go to website to celebrate choice in reading as well as allowing students to eventually create their own wonders. 

In the past, my students have completed several first day activities: building a class puzzle, building marshmallow and spaghetti structures, playing fact and opinion. These are all great ideas but again I structured them tightly by Limiting supplies and giving specific directions.  Granted they enjoyed it, but they didn't have the chance to choose their supplies which is a huge part of collaboration with a new group of students. 

The table is set to greet them as they arrive to fifth grade on their first day.
Spaghetti, toothpicks, marshmallows, Duct tape, different size construction paper and containers.
Tomorrow when my students arrive, they are going to see a variety of supplies and my only directions will be to create the tallest structure on Wednesday; Thursday build the strongest structure. After each structure is complete we will discuss the following:
  1. ·      What did you learn about structure as well as working as team?
  2. ·      What are you proud of with the structure and as a team?
  3. ·      What would you change with the structure and as a team? 

I will record their thinking on chart paper..  I will ask each student to write a reflection in their notebook, so that on Friday we can come back to both experiences and compare/contrast them.  My goal is that as a class we will write a class motto for the year and will continue to reflect on these experiences throughout the year.  More to follow who knows what will happen after all I'm letting go.....

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Why I Blog.

Why blog?  I've been asking this question frequently in my mind and even asked a few close friends. The answer has been blurry for me and lately I have had more reasons why not vs. why to continue to write.  I've been struggling last school year and even more this summer.  I've been thinking about it all the time: lying in the hammock, morning walks, gardening, and sitting in the rocking chair. I've been searching for answers.  Here is what I've figured out about blogging.

  • Blogging isn't necessarily about what ends up in the blog.  I compose posts all the time in my mind actually this is probably the number one reason I have a blog. I'm always thinking about what to share or what not to share.  How to say this but not say that?  The process is huge for me.
  • Blogging is my lifeline for my PLN.  I wouldn't be where I am today as an educator with out my extended learning including my NCFL family and support of twitter friends. There are numerous times when I was at the end of the rope and a comment, tweet or text pulled my through.  I wonder how someone in another state can know me better than my colleagues I work with everyday.
  • Blogging is my connection with reality. My reality of putting pencil to paper in my notebook or typing on Google docs. The reality of asking my students to write and seeing that look on their face of horror and being able to say I know how you feel because I felt the exact same way.  Then open up my writer's notebook and share my story with them.
  • Blogging pushes me in a direction that I am unsure but somehow want to end of there. Well doesn't that sound like life...pushing forward and not sure of the path your'e on.  
I'm not going to promise that I am back to full throttle, but I know that I need to continue to blog because the thinking in my head, the writing on paper and the commorodity with my PLN is something that I cherish.  Here's to another school year - welcome back to those who already started as well those of you who are still basking in the summer glow. 

Found this gem on our sailing trip this summer.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Digital Reading: Chapters 6 - 7

It’s always fun learning together and having conversations about books. This is true in my classroom and even more in the summer when I have time to reflect (OLW15) on my learning.  #cyberPD has been a perfect combo for summer learning. A huge thanks to everyone who has been posting their thinking and commenting!

Chapter 6:  Assessment: Keeping Our Eye on the Literacy
This chapter made my heart happy.  I have been shifting my literacy assessments over the past several years to more of a "conversation" with students about their books.  I've never done required reading logs (page number contracts etc) because I believe that killed reading for our own two children in elementary school. My students write me letters about their current reading book and I write back to them. A few years ago that switched from pencil/paper to Google.  That switch really helped me for convenience and also 24/7 communication with my students through commenting.  On page 98 "'s important to keep parents and families in the loop."  Google has allowed me to do this easily,  I often share a letter with a parent or send it as an attachment if they don't have a Google account.  Most of my shares are positive and allowing parents to see what their child is reading and to see their thinking about the book. At fifth grade, most students are still not sharing their HW with their parents, so this has been a positive communication tool with parents. Sometimes they even join in on the conversations by leaving a comment which is powerful.   

Chapter 7:  Beyond the Classroom Walls:  Connecting Reading at Home and School
I think I was most excited to read this chapter.  It our busy world I am constantly trying to connect home and school beyond the weekly Friday folder.  I know that  I have done that with the weekly reading reflections, but beyond that point I have not figured it out.  My first thought always moves toward the Flip Classroom and shifting HW.   It's been on my radar for at least two years now and every summer I try and tackle it a little bit more.  Time at school is precious but time at home is even more precious.  As a parent of two grown children, I remember the busy sports/CCD/scouts nights and then HW.  I am still pondering how to connect HW to school so that it's not an add on but in addition to the classroom learning.  It's still an enigma to me that I will continue to ponder.

Summer Blogging Break:
Summer has been refreshing, slowing down and reflecting (OLW15) has been exactly what I needed. As this posts, we will be on our summer vacation, and I'm sad that I am going to miss the final Twitter Chat.  A huge thanks to Cathy, Laura and Michelle for organizing another successful #cyberPD.  I will be back sometime in late August ready to share new ideas and ready for the start of a new school year.