Teaching, Musings, Growing

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Remembering 9-11

Reflecting on 9-11

I created this poster using Postermywall.com to reflect and remember...always. I used a picture I took last summer in New York City and found impactful words to share what I reflect on and remember about 9-11.

I intend to share this with my students on Monday. Forever remember. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

DigiLit Sunday and Motivation

Motivation can come in many forms, but in a 5th and 6th grade Gifted ELA class, motivation comes from choice and creative expression! This year I am giving my students more ownership of their learning by modeling a lesson, having them apply the ideas from the lesson, and then having them evaluate their work within a "microprogression" of learning based on DIY Literacy by Kate and Maggie Roberts, which I read this summer. After evaluating examples of work and looking at levels of completion from minimum work to meet requirements to higher levels of completion together, my students then get the chance to go back and add to their work to make it better before turning it in for a grade. Students then use their understanding to create strategy pages in their notebooks that will help them to reach the next level of understanding on future assignments. This is a natural way to help students with something I could never quite get right- individual goal setting. Students are all working on the same strategy, but can vary their goals based on what they need to grow! It really has been working in a way that is meaningful for my students and for me.

Let me give one simple example from this past week. We began our read aloud FIsh in a Tree with our interactive document that contained a link to a google doc where students answered some prereading questions. What I found when quickly looking over initial answers in Google Classroom was that students left out the second part of a multipart question, put little descriptive detail in their work, or did not revise and edit work. We addessed this with this simple microprogression chart I created with my students in class with real student examples from the lesson to show 3 levels of understanding that all met the minimum requirements, but where the highest 2 levels extended their explanation to show deeper thinking. Here is the chart we created where students helped me add example work to one of the 3 levels (no names were mentioned but students knew the examples were all good examples, but at various levels of completion.)

After students helped me level examples of their work and add them to the chart, they went back and added to their own original work. Here is an example of one student's answer before and after our discussion/lesson:

First answer:

After our microprogression creation as a class:
The student added examples to their work that made their work better! This student  might set a personal reading goal to add more descriptive details and examples to their work where another student might set a goal to revise and edit if they see a lot of punctuation and grammatical errors.

The beauty of going digital:

  • Teachers can see the work in Google Classroom, do a formative assessment of who gets the lesson and who needs another lesson. 
  • Teachers can copy and paste examples from students in the class at every level to share .
  • Students can change their answers or add to their answers easily, without having to redo an entire assignment. 
  • Teachers can go back in the revision history to actually see the improvements their students made based on the follow-up lesson looking at microprogressions of work that meets the criteria, but get more complex. 
  • Some students realize they are not even meeting the minimum criteria and need more or teachers realize those students need a small group lesson to help them with understanding. 
  • Students make their understanding clear and see how to revise their own work and grow! 
Each bit of growth can lead to a real difference for each student by the end of the year! Students can also see what goals they want to set for themselves based on where they want to go next! That is motivating, timesaving, and exciting for teachers and students!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

DigiLit Sunday and Digital Voice

This year I am working to let my students' digital voices be heard by not just each other, but the world! One way I hope to accomplish this is with a reading challenge in my classroom inspired by Donalyn Miller. I have taken the challenge and created 5 levels my students can work to attain (I am using an idea inspired by @MRSWeberREAD who used digital badges with her classroom work and written response letters, so thanks, Heidi!).

My students will each get a copy of a google slideshow where they are challenged to read independently in nonfiction, poetry, traditional literature, a fiction book of their choice, and one specific genre each month. For each book they complete during the month they will record a "shelfie", a new term I learned this summer for a selfie with a book, and share their book with 6th graders in our classroom and with pen pals we have hooked up with, along with the world through our 6th grade blog. Students will also share a choice activity: sketchquotes, summary, blog post, book talk, etc. to give others a taste of the book. We will use Padlet to post book reviews for the month that we can share with each other, our pen pals, and the world.

Students digital voices will let them reach other 6th graders outside of our classrooms and school. Each trimester we will celebrate books and our love of reading. My badges go from a level 1 badge which students earn for their first 10 books read, level 2 badge for 11-20, level 3 bronze badge for 21-30, level 4 silver badge for 31-40 and level 5 gold badge for 41 or more. The badges act as symbols for their accomplishments rather than prizes for reading as research shows that prizes do not build interested readers and sustained reading, but a love of books does!

The important part of this challenge is not how many books students read and badges they earn, but simply how many more books they finish this year than in previous school years, and how proud they feel about themselves as readers. When students feel proud of their accomplishments, they will keep challenging themselves. What I want is for each student I have to appreciate books, find books that appeal to them to give them experiences they would not normally have, so that their voices, both digital and in person, can be heard sharing books they love in an enthusiastic way throughout their lives!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

DigiLit Sunday and Read Alouds...

This week for DigiLit Sunday I decided to share a merging of ideas I will try as I share a read aloud with my 6th graders to begin the year. I want to merge mini lesson sharing with a mentor text (my read aloud) to share skills and strategies readers use based on read aloud books with discussion and written response, so my G-Link document was born. What is that? Well, if you are at all familiar with Thinglink, it is similar but created with a Google Slide and hyperlinks. I decided that I will give each of my students a G-Link document to record our thinking for our first read aloud Fish in a Tree. I will attach links to various activities throughout our novel sharing. I intend to attach activities that have us interacting digitally, writing together, brainstorming, and more. Here is my document as it stands today:

I copied the book cover and attached it to a Google Slide that I proportioned this way. I then added 3 "G-Links" as I am calling them. The first is the circle that will symbolize our brainstorming in this novel. I attached a prereading activity to a google doc that students will submit through Google Classroom  to this circle. My second link is the thought symbol in blue where I added a TodaysMeet link for students to share thoughts about the book as I read it aloud. (If you have not seen TodaysMeet I recommend looking into it for student conversations in real time.) Lastly, I added a scroll and attached a Padlet for writing thoughts based on our strategy or a question I pose in regard to my read aloud on some days. I intend to use these links throughout our read aloud to keep students engaged in the book and keep our conversations digital and relevant to our strategy practice and goals in the classroom!

 I will adapt this idea to my 5th grade gifted writing class later in the year to look at author's craft as we share a novel together. I intend to create a follow-up post with examples and information about what is working and what I have changed in a few weeks! Enjoy the new school year! 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Canva and Blogger......Begin Creatively

DigiLitSunday Thanks, Margaret Simone!
Blogging to Begin our Year

This year we will blog as a way of sharing our writing authentically. We will begin with a class blog where students will share writing, get to know each other better, and make appropriate comments. I decided to try out Canva to create our Blog Rules poster. It was really creative and fun! I could see this being a fabulous tool for students to present information. I created our class blog on Blogger.

I thought I would share a first week activity. I will share the poem Speak Up by Janet S Wong. This is a poem for 2 voices with a theme of appreciating others differences and using respectful language which one of the speakers in this poem does not! Students can then rewrite the poem in a respectful tone that shows mutual appreciation and admiration for differences!

We will follow up this activity by looking for what makes each one of us similar to each other through a Just Like _____________ poem. Here is mine I created in Google Drawing, Just Like Mrs. Swartz. Students can use Google Drawing or try out Canva to create their own and we will share, looking at what makes us each unique and what makes us similar as well! We can share our poems using a Padlet link and write comments to each other!

I can't wait to see the creativity of my students, find out more about my students, and for my students to learn more about each other and me.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Picture Book 10 for 10

Thank you to Mandy Robek and Cathy Mere for developing this great way to share picture books!

This is my first year taking part in the Picture Book 10 for 10 day, although technically I am posting this on the 11th.( Sorry, I was out of town yesterday.) I love to use picture books with my gifted 5th and 6th graders as we can have some deep conversations centered around them in so many ways! I decided to include my list of picture books to begin the year and build community.

I know that 5th and 6th grade gifted students love picture books and I love to begin with simple books that students enjoy, but that get us thinking, sharing, and growing together! It was so hard to choose only 10! I can't wait to create a wishlist, and Amazon order, of books to add to my collection of picture books for my tweens!

10 Picture Books to Begin the Year and Build Community

Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt

This book is perfect for first day nerves! It describes how routine can feel comfortable and safe, but how important it is to take risks! Perfect for growth mindset and understanding our feelings! We always have a great time interpreting the great lists and charts in this book! The images are funny and engaging!

Normal Norman by Tara Lazar

This is a great book to discuss what normal really is. It can lead into some great conversations about the importance of being yourself, but being the best version of yourself you can be!

The Name Jar by Xangsook Choi

I love this book to discuss differences and how important it is to embrace what makes us each unique and special. It is also a great book to use as inspiration for writing about our own names and nicknames and how we got them as well as what makes them special. This can lead to great conversations and help us get to know about each other and ourselves in a new way.

The Secret Knowledge of Grown Ups by David Wisniewski
This is an older book, but my students love it! It discusses why parents really have the rules they have with wildly imaginary ideas. I love to share this after we discuss our own classroom and school procedures and let my students create the real reasons we need to listen when others are speaking and stay quiet in the hallways! It is always a  great acitivity that students enjoy and their interesting ideas get their creativity flowing!

Someday by Eileen Spinelli
This is a great book to share when discussing goal setting, short and long term goals, and action plans to achieve our goals.

The Art of Mrs. Chew by Patricia Polacco
This is a great story to share the importance of having empathy for others and realizing that we each have gifts and talents as well as limitations we need to grow in our own unique ways! Again, great for growth mindset and celebrating individuality!

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett and Gary Rubinstein
Great book for sharing the importance of failure and mistakes and how  they are a natural part of learning and  what lead us to real success!

Edward Fuddwupper Fibbed Big by Berkeley Breathed

Great for discussing the importance of being truthful even when you make a mistake. Students love the silly detailed images and writing in this entertaining story.  A great book for sharing author’s voice, too!

Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle by Chris Raschka

Illustrations in this book tell the story of how everyone is capable of learning, but not everyone learns in the same way. Great for multiple intelligence and choice in process and product. Also, pair it with this fascinating video to share how your brain works! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFzDaBzBlL0
If you have never seen this video it is fascinating and students love it!

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

Great book for talking about the importance of creativity and bringing life to your work. Also, a great book for growth mindset.

...And because I am posting this on the 11th, my bonus 11th picture book!

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

Great book for discussing persistence and perseverance! Students love sharing how they have learned from mistakes and writing about how a time they learned from something that went wrong or when they made a mistake, yet they kept working toward a solution!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

6 Word Mottos and DigiLit Sunday

I am excited to be a part of DigiLit Sunday. I believe technology is an essential tool for learning today. As I begin to think about our new school year, I know that one area I want to grow in this year is my ability to help my students set goals for themselves, see that goals are short term and long term, and help my students to reach some goals, abandon goals when needed, and keep striving toward others. Technology can aid and enhance our class and our experience in so many ways. Goal setting requires a destination, but also requires commitment and small steps along the voyage. One beginning of the year activity I will complete for myself and with my 6th grade gifted students is to create a 6 word motto to shape our work and actions this year. 

This comes from an idea I have seen in several forms: 6 word stories and 6 word memoirs. The idea originally came through an exercise created by Smith Magazine and popularized by the book Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Famous and Obscure Writers. I ran across this idea when looking into ways to boost student creativity last spring. The idea is that even through, and especially through the use of limits, work can be more interesting and creative not less interesting or creative. in other words more, is less and less is more. If this is an area you have not yet explored, I do recommend looking at this interesting way of thinking.

 In this opening lesson, I encourage students to brainstorm and create their own motto based on their beliefs and what they believe. I have a Google Slide which I call our 6 word Motto Ebook where students can put their finished product. Students will use technology for this task in many ways. I ask students to research sayings and quotes, list words that describe what they believe or want to believe this year. I encourage students to create their motto be drawing, using images, creating their own images, and more. I will show students my example where I used Google Draw, paper and markers, took a selfie, used a graphic frame, and created a voice recording in Chrome to put together my own motto to inspire me this year and perhaps for years to come. I will be interested to see what students create for a motto and how well we each live into our mottos as the school year goes by. We will challenge ourselves and each other to live into our motto, perhaps even change our motto as we need, and reach for something that we each believe we want to become to make ourselves better! We will learn from each other!

I hope to share our mottos with parents at our parent night, and with others in our school and beyond! I look forward to learning about my creative students through their self-created self-inspired 6 word mottos. I also look forward to the inspiration each can instill in each other and how each student will inspire me. 

Technology allows my students to create their mottos with interesting, unique formats that will share as much about each of them as their own motto will. 

 Google Slideshow for 6 word motto https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1xZ8entQqFMfZG0n-WnyyIB5Q5M_3lhCnQXhQ6ksQaxM/edit?usp=copy