Saturday, January 24, 2015

Celebrate: Threes

I’m celebrating threes. I’ve struggled with understanding the Common Core Standards in Reading Information.  I was struggling with raising the level of thinking my students will need to do to process and understand the standards.  

I’m celebrating Wonderopolis as my go to for non-fiction text to support higher-level thinking.  This week my students read Wonder #1377 What Was the Sit-In Movement? They read it three times with three different prompts. As we discussed their background knowledge, only two students out of 23 knew anything about the sit-in. 
  1. Read it for an overview of the article: What did you learn new? Which vocabulary words were unknown to you?  
  2. Read it for comprehension answering the three questions from the wonder and application of context clues for the vocabulary words they identified.
  3. Read it for the author's purpose with supporting evidence. 
Thanks K. for letting me share your essay.
We never read an article three times. Occasionally, I heard, "We're reading it again." But more often I heard, "It helped me to understand it better because I read it several times."  It's hard to explain how much I learned from this experience.  I celebrate my students for allowing me to learn along with them. 
  1. I learned what close reading really means. 
  2. I learned that students can read an article three times and it's ok, and they didn't mind. 
  3. I learned that when I choose an article - I want to hook my students with a subject they have limited background knowledge instead of always connecting with other content areas. 
I'm celebrating an amazing week of reading workshop. Thanks Ruth Ayres for encouraging us to celebrate.  Here is the link up for this week.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

OLW Heads and Tails

Google Images

Rigor. Perseverance. Determination. “I think I can, I think I can.” I wonder where these important life skills have gone with my students? I often feel like I am working harder than they are.  I’ve had conversations with several colleagues, parents, and friends about the lack of “I can” attitude. 

I wish I knew the answer. I occasionally see a glimmer of these important attributes in my class; however, never consistent. I have wondered if there is a huge desire for this age group for an immediate reward?  The student completes their task even if it isn’t at the level of expectation, but at least it is complete. I even have had awkward parent conferences where I have mentioned this lack of motivation and often I hear in response, “We feel the same way.” That’s a red flag for me and with so many years of experience, I don’t sugar coat the rest of the conference as we discuss the issue.

Enter my OLW for 2015: perspective.  “A way of thinking about and understanding something (such as a particular issue" I have been thinking intently about these or lack of these character traits.  But I haven’t been “understanding.”  I never realized my OLW is like a coin: heads (thinking) tails (understanding). 

Enter understanding.  Over the past several months, I notice some common characteristics about my students: 
·      Most of them are totally overscheduled and can’t figure out when to do their homework, read a book or relax and play outside.
·      Most of them are attached at the hip to some electronic device. Although this year, I am excited to see Kindles and iPads being used for reading.
·     Some of them are not sure what to do in their free time when they have free time.  When we do our weekend share every Monday, most of the time I hear about their sporting events.  Occasionally girl scouts/boy scouts. 

Which brings me back to Rigor. Perseverance. Determination. “I think I can, I think I can.”  Most successes have been when I model them. I teach them. I share books about them. I ask them to apply them. What I understand now is I need to focus on these traits in order to help my students become problem solvers, cooperative learners, and strong young citizens.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Three Celebrations

Happy New Year!  Ruth Ayres invites us to celebrate each week. Click here for link up. 
Las year's Christmas tree

Christmas break was perfect. Life isn't perfect but having both our children home together was perfect. Playing cards and games. Time to talk which is a treasured gift with our adult children.  Two weeks of vacation and time the last week to catch up from the holidays and enjoy some time for reading was a celebration.

OLW: Perspective  I really have started reflecting on what's important for me as well as my family.  My OLW is already creeping into to my thoughts, conversations at school and decisions that we're making at home.  I am constantly amazed how OLW can have such an impact on my life. I celebrate that I made the right choice for me.

Finally I celebrate two snow days this week.  Not because we were off school but because I had extra time with our son.  He is leaving to go back to college and we were able to have a few shopping trips for little things he needed.  More cards and games. Best of all more conversations. I celebrate being a mom it's the best job in the world. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Abandoning a Book at the Library

I was talking to a friend about The Red Pencil which is a novel in verse. I showed her my book filled with sticky notes. She asked me about the notes, and I told her I fell in love with the language of the story. I love to read, but as important to me is the choice of words that the author makes. I am constantly writing in my own books, but if it is a library book I use sticky notes.  My problem is when I finish a captivating book I feel like I have to abandon I return it.  I wonder if other readers have that feeling of abandonment when you return a book to the library?  I decided to write this blog to hold onto Andrea Davis Pinkney choice of words that touched my heart.
  • p. 64 Lines I'm the holder of the instrument that makes picture-music on our parched land.
  • p. 68 Seeing the Same Sun Anwar says, "Your girl's glint should be allowed to shine even brighter."
  • p. 94 Bleat - Relief!  In one long breath, I release, relief.
  • p. 124 Soles We walk on dogged feet for nights and nights and nights.
  • p. 151 Rubber Twigs There is so much sadness in Kalma's dirt. No life in this camp's branches.
  • p. 172 Unwelcome Our beliefs about Sayidda Moon's power have been stripped of their meaning, smacked off by heartaches' hand.
  • p. 225 Sweet Invitation Old Anwar says, "Amira, you are not chasing the wind. You are stirring it up.
  • p. 228 My A  Your hand already understands the writing letters and drawing are the same, Anwar says. "Letters are pictures that make words."
  • 262 Anthill Old Anwar says, "I am the one to be admonished for not seeing that the bright start right in front of me meeds a bigger sky to shine."
in the author notes I read, "The Red Pencil is a work of fiction inspired by several accounts that I read about children growing up inside an unthinkable reality. The Red Pencil's illustrated poems follow one child's journey through grief and possibility." Thank you Andrea Davis Pikney for sharing the possibility for Amira. What a treasure.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2015 OLW: Perspective

It's that time again to choose my OLW for 2015.  In the past, life events had prompted by word.  I typically didn't think very long about which word I was going to choose.  However I have learned the past three years that my OLW definitely becomes a part of who I am almost in a mysterious yet peaceful way.

  • 2012 reflection 
  • 2013 gratitude
  • 2014 choice
Reflection came at a time when I was starting to juggle new learning opportunities for me I was scared to say yes, but I did.  I knew that I never took time to reflect, and I needed to. Still today my 25 minute drive home is about reflecting and a special phone call everyday to our daughter to see how her school day was for her.

Gratitude came from 26 Random Acts of Kindness.  I had to do something that reached out to my world that I touched everyday.  My heart was broken and I needed to heal because I just could not wrap my thinking around the events at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT. Gratitude has been my favorite OLW because I was able to extend myself and reach others. 

Choice was last year's word.  Chosen because I needed to feel that I had choices in my busy life. I had not wrapped my head around being an empty nester yet still wanting and needing to parent.  I had several opportunities at work that would require me to "step up" and I wasn't sure which choice I would make. Borrowing from Ruth Ayres reflection, " I can't imagine a better word to teach me what I needed (But didn't even know I needed) to learn."

Finally as I kept a note in my iPhone and collected several words. My criteria boiled down to this question:   Which word would encompass all my other OLW because all three had impacted my life?

Thanks to Google - love the Scrabble letters.
Perfect for me

  • Perspective as I continue my journey in teaching facing a variety of issues: state testing, value added evaluations, professional growth including which books to read, conferences to attend, time spent on social media. Reflecting on how all those issues impact me.
  • Perspective on time including a wider variety of work outs, making different choices in the evenings, and continuing to establish new habits.
  • Perspective on being a quiet listener, making the best choices for me as well as my family, and choosing to continue to focus on gratitude.  

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Last Slice of Life 2014 OLW: Choice

2014 is coming closed. I have always tried to make positive choices: my OLW for this year. I always thought that choices typically lead to a positive result, but as I reflect on this past year my thinking has shifted.  Choices this year has been about protecting my family and myself. The interesting part of this journey for me is that I learned more about myself than I could have ever imagined.  Life wasn't always about teaching, being connected to social media, reading, or writing; actually I have logged more time watching television this year probably more than the past 10 years combined. And that was a choice. Interesting one that I never thought I would have made. I haven't read a complete book since school started nor have I written too many blog posts or any articles for CL. Although this felt different, I know that I have made the correct choices for me as well as my family. One important lesson I learned is that I am thankful when I have a choice to be made. I use to take those opportunities for granted.  I learned choices do make a difference especially when I am asked to walk an unfamiliar path.  Life is about choices and as 2014 comes to a close I would not have made any different choices, and I feel very blessed to have walked this path.  I am still pondering my 2015 OLW, but I know I will deciding quickly. After all New Year's Eve is just around the corner. Thank you for the support of the Slice of Life community.  Here is the link for this week’s posts.

Our little piece of heaven. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Saturday Celebration: Mixture of Everything

This week was challenging. Starting with a sick day last Friday and a long extended weekend of lying on the couch. I have learned when bronchitis comes pounding on my chest I need to stop and take care of myself.  Little celebrations are huge for me. I am thankful for a one night all inclusive Christmas shopping trip with my husband.  He picked me up after school, and we completed our entire list by 7:30 including dinner. For those who know me the last time I was at the mall, well I can’t remember and that is fine. This trip did not involve the mall so we were successful. Wednesday night was our fifth grade annual holiday concert.  There is nothing I love more than fifth graders singing, dancing and being a kid. Our music teacher involves every student who wants to participate.  Our students design the backgrounds, choreography, the introductions to the songs as well as the program.  It 's so exciting to see the "way cool" boys dancing to the song "Hot Chocolate" and "Do you Know Blitzen?" Tomorrow, I will be wrapping and watching my favorite Christmas movies. I love this time of year not the shopping but the giving.  I’m always thankful for celebrating with my friends this coming week at school. Feel free to check out other celebration blogs here.