Sunday, 5 February 2017

Post #2: Applying Some Ideas from Reluctant Writers

This blog post is very late. . . .extremely late, like not even in the same month late. As some of you may remember I was struggling as my teaching partner and I already had a plan for the year and working in my new learning from PD was tricky.

 I spoke to my teaching partner and leveled with her. I needed to be able to bring student work and be applying what I was learning. She was 100 percent on board and I went to task on creating a two week unit based on the first two sessions.

Elementary school is unique entity because there are so many interesting and educational things going on at all times. Case in point: we are on week three and I have only done 3 days of our two week writing unit. Why you ask? Because report cards meant we needed to wrap up other activities, one afternoon the voyageurs visited, two days there was "No Bus" days meaning students were not present, one day there was a recycling assembly. . . .the list goes on and on. It leads to some creative planning and the age old question of "how do we fit it all in?"

So although we are only on day three we actually have done about 5 days of writing. The pacing I have used has been horrible, either too long for activities or too short for others. My first a-ha moment, over planning is good, because you'll always have extra stuff to focus on. . . .and things always take longer than you think.

There have been some aha moments and I'm happy to say I'm growing as not only a teacher but as teacher of the writing craft.

1. Students are shy about their names and their roots. It takes them some time to get comfortable to share and talk about their roots BUT once they start it is a monster that is hard to control. The buzz of the room gets louder and people shout over each other to tell their interesting stories! I call it magic in the classroom!

2. Technology will still mess you up. I created Poll Everywhere for both classes. One class was able to complete one of the two questions. . . .and it was a mess the whole time. The other class was able to complete both with little problem. What was the difference you ask? I'm not sure. . .I'm still trying to figure that out. Be ready for it to go south fast and roll with it, the sooner our students figure out that struggle and chaos while learning technology is okay, the more comfortable they'll be to try it out on their own, remember students take their cues from us. Stay calm and pretend that it's all going as planned!

Poll Everywhere

3. YouTube videos are a great way to engage and make students wonder: I put on the first Coke video on names, remember the name campaign?? Everyone stopped and listened, Again, magic!

4. Brainstorming is still hard for students. . .even in Grade 7 and 8, it still takes time and is still a struggle for many. Keep this in mind as you jot down "quick brainstorm" I really wonder if I should have modeled for myself and then modeled another students name, I thought modelling my own name would be enough, I was wrong.

5. Showing your students your own writing is not near as scary as you'd think, other than the glee of seeing my inner most thoughts, most students seems fairly unaffected by my deepest thoughts.

6. A name survey will actually have most students participating, very few didn't bring it back. Students were eager to share their parents' thoughts!!

7. Sharing in groups is great as long as it's short, as long as you don't drag it out and as soon as students are done send them back to their seats to keep the class going you're golden. The minute they sense there is extra time. . .you're done, cooked. . . now directing traffic. As soon as the focused conversations stop, back to your seat you go!

8. Students seemed much more comfortable with the whole idea about writing after we talked about what is hard. . . .like a bonding experience, "oh we all have difficulty, it's okay. . .and it's normal" "phew"

9.  Writing a paragraph is not the big task it may seem if you have a brainstorm, and a survey, most students were willing to write. . . I amped up the creative energies by putting some meditation music, allowing students to listen to their own music and doing some mindful activities from Gonoodle to start.  I know what you're thinking right now, geez Kat that seems like a lot of stuff to get excited about twenty minutes of focused writing, but it wasn't. I know some of you out there are nodding right now. The satisfaction of writing is directly related to the difficulty it takes for some to get started, which is why the pride and joy is so great when wonderful things are created, because for many it's a hard journey.

Go Noodle

10. Use post its for feedback, the kids will love using neon paper to write down feedback, not feel intimidated with the small piece and as my colleague mentioned, it's not near as upsetting if you don't like that feedback. . .you just peel it off and place it out of site. (Thanks Ashleigh!)

So there is our first few days of our writing unit based on my learning at Reluctant Writing. I am pleased with the results so far and excited of what's to come. I am posting my first week plan if anyone is looking for inspiration or ideas, hopefully the links work, let me know if you don't have access to one of the links.

Reluctant Writers Week One

How is it going in your class? How is your journey going? Our journey as a class hasn't been smooth, or pretty but full of learning and a-ha moments and really that's all I can hope for!

Kat :)

PS This post was originally written on January 24th but I delayed posting until after reports :)

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Day One: Monday, November 21, 2016

Today was the first day of the newest professional development I've taken on.

This year I am teaching 7/8 and I am uncomfortable. Daily. Minute by Minute. I'm a creature of habit and comfort and everything is new, my students luckily are not. Some I have known for years, some I have known since I taught them in Grade 5, that helps, a little. The curriculum although similar is foreign, some of the challenges, new. The team teaching where we integrate multiple subjects with inquiry (which by the way is an amazing way to hit many birds with one stone!) is amazing but again new. There are few comfortable moments as I wade through this new experience, I am reminded of not only why this was a good thing and why I enjoy routine oh so much.

Okay back to the point of this, so I am feeling uncomfortable but I am forging ahead and I see there is PD regarding writing. . . .the piece of the language program I loathe, for no other reason than the fact that I can write, I enjoy writing but I struggle to show others.  It's the piece I avoid, that I slot at the end of the period, the piece of I search out resources and colleagues alike for assistance. I decide to go for it, I'm already uncomfortable, might as well keep the theme going!

So I arrive and it is within the first five minutes that I realize I am at the wrong location, panic sets in, now I'm late.. . . I debate not going. . . .realizing I have few options I leave to head to the proper hotel. I am hesitant to go in, the session has already started and now I have to go in late. I walk in and immediately am greeted with "Hi Kathleen!" Crisis averted. I panic as I look for my colleagues sitting at the far end and settle in as quickly as I can.

The good news: I am more comfortable than I thought I would be, the one back table has colleagues from Tweedsmuir who I met before I even got on the supply list and was running a before and after school program. There's another colleague I met earlier in my career who is incredibly techy and inspiring! The table in the middle has my teaching partner from a summer of literacy camp and a colleague from social justice task force. The table beside us has a teacher who I met during my practicum at Locke's, my table has my two new colleagues this year and I sit across from a colleague I supplied for in my first year of teaching.

Full circle. Almost every table has people from every part of my career, my comfort level is rising.

So it begins and the ideas are flowing, people are saying great things, and I realize how much I have to learn but also that I was doing some good things too. (Before you say it, I know I am hard on myself, it's just the way I roll).

My notes from the day are spotty at best as the Chromebook I have brought is almost dead. I find out we immediately get a writer's notebook to use, it reminds me of the years I have given students one and the possibilities it could contain, I also lament at how plain the ones I last gave out were and decide if I hand them out to another class, the first day we will do them up to make them less boring, my new one is beautiful with a lovely quote on it.

Annette our leader mentions that we will learn to create a community of writers and I am not so concerned with this. I have done this before and it went okay, room for improvement but I've done it. Examining beliefs around writing. . . .well you can see where I'm at . . .personally I'm okay. . . .professionally I avoid it at all costs as I doubt my own abilities. Then I see the words that puzzle me most

"We will investigate what writers do"

I'm not even sure what I do when I write, the words just pour out of me. . . .for better or worse, I am aware I write way too much, which you might have noticed from this post. So what am I actually doing? How am I crafting what to write? How do I form my paragraphs, where do I draw my inspiration from?

I'm not sure.

I am excited at the prospect of bringing writing back in to my life. When I was in elementary school in grade 7 or 8 I had a red and black notebook and I wrote essays and poems and whatever I wanted, the book is long gone. . .or in a memory tub at my parents but eventually I stopped. I like to think university killed not only my love of reading but also my enjoyment of writing. Reading has come back slowly, tempting me with pop culture best sellers and comedian biographies. Writing, not so much. This blog last had a post written in 2014. . . almost three years ago, at some point I started this blog as a way to share my classroom and my learning. . . .

but I had a hard time keeping up. I felt I owed my readers more than a paragraph so if I couldn't write a worthwhile post I wouldn't write at all. . . .which brings us to three years later where I show my classroom work on Instagram mostly under a classroom account.

I want my students to get excited about writing, in junior I had students who wanted to write instead of read and I thought that might be one of the best problems to have. Now in intermediate my time seems even more limited, there is no free writing, even fitting in the independent reading seems tricky some days, so how I do reach these kids? How do I get them to want to write, I think it would be good for all of them, if for no other reason than to help deal with teen angst and sort through emotions.

Tomorrow my teaching partner and I have a common planning period and I am going to show her all that we did today and see what we can work in to our already busy plan.

I want those writers to come back.

As the day ended I felt overwhelmed but happy, it turned out I had more going on with my writing program than I realized and writing was so much more than essay writing. Why my brain had reduced it to this is beyond me. It doesn't have to be complicated and long, that is only one form that we see!

I'm looking forward to this, I've already been examining my life and looking to see what I can change for my own balance. . . .add writing to the list of essential oils, crossfit and mindfulness.

Yep I'm still uncomfortable but that's okay, learning can't always be easy and comfortable. I read somewhere that it's when we are most out of our comfort zone that the learning truly starts, as we stretch our minds and souls to grow.

It's time to grow.

Kat :)

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Belated Photo Friday

I thought I'd put up some pics of what we've been up to the last week or so!

This isn't the greatest pic but it shows our price list for the Bond bucks you earn. I used to do a treasure  box and realized how impractical this idea was so now I do more free stuff such as sit with a Friend at lunch,gum chewing pass, 15 min on the computer pass, guest friend for lunch, sit in Ms. Bond's wheely chair for the day and the kids favourite: fun Friday pass where they can purchase a fun gym class of activities of their choice! It takes awhile to save for that one!

These aren't anything new but are some postings in my room for the year!

Helper board rotates each week.

It's important for students to understand the big ideas and themes in various read alouds, here are some of the ones we've done this year!

This is a shot of my smart board, students have been learning about annotating and I asked them to pick two annotations they felt were interesting or important to them. They pulled them from a read aloud we read called A Green Apple by Eve Bunting. I gave them a typed copy of the story to annotate on.They copied two of the annotations on to stickies and then placed them where they fit in terms of reading strategies. We then discussed what was popular and what we need to do to come up with more inferences etc that students didn't choose.  It was an interesting exercise as well of what students perceive as their most interesting annotations.

This is the example of the modelled annotating I did with one of our shared readings. It was cool to see many students attempting after I explained what it was I was doing! It is what we are working on for the next little while. My goal is that by eqao time, students will automatically annotate their readings, helping their comprehension and assist with answering open response questions.

This is our poster our group made from journeys into literacy, there was only four of us but our goal was to make our thinking visible while reading. I realize now I should have taken better close ups!

That's all for now! Have a great weekend!

Kathleen :)

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Measurement Olympics!

To start our measurement unit I wanted to do something fun that got everyone moving and really thinking about how we can measure items and what role estimating plays. I googled measurement Olympics and printed off a package to get me on my way. I used one published in 1987 by AIMS Education Foundation. There were seven or eight events but I went with five. Event one was the sponge squeeze, students had to pull a sponge out of a bucket of water and squeeze in to another, they estimate how much water, then measure. It was definitely the messiest station!

The next station we did was called the marble grab BUT I could not find marbles so it became a station with linking cubes. For each station one studnt on a team of four or five did the event while others assisted with recording and estimating. The student grabbed a handful of cubes and placed them in one side of a balance, them students estimated how much they thought the cubes weighed. They added weights until they balanced out.

The next station was the foot measuring station, students had one student trace a foot on centimetre grid paper, they had to estimate how much area the foot covered, then calculate.

The next station was the javelin, students stood behind a taped line and threw the javelin (coloured straws). They had to estimate how far they thought it travelled and then measure, this station was cool because I saw many strategies for estimating and calculating. Some were asking for metre sticks, some were using the length of their foot as a benchmark and others were eyeballing it before measuring.

Last was the discus and again many strategies were being used, students had to throw a paper plate and estimate and then calculate.

After each group had finished each station we had a discussion about what was the easiest to estimate and measure, which stations did they feel like they had a good grasp of the units of measurement and which did note we talked about some conclusions and insights we discovered. I thought it was a good way to keep a busy group with cabin fever engaged and I can now relate lessons we are doing back to our Olympics. Up next I saw on someone else's blog a surface area and volume activity using Lego so I hope to try that! Have a great rest of the week!


Saturday, 8 February 2014

How I s It February Already???!!!

Hi everyone! Have you been wondering where I've been? Life is busy, I am immersed in three different professional development opportunities and coaching boys basketball as well as trying to get to boot camp and futsal! This entry will be mostly a view of items going on in my room or past activities. Hoping they are helpful to others!!! 

This is from our community circle in December, we talked about what we could improve and what we are doing well. We have this posted just outside our classroom so we see it as we enter each day!

This is one of the choices students had after we read the story Fatty. Legs, focusing on the experience of a girl named Olemaun at a residential school, students had the choice of one of nine options, if any would like the choice board, message me and I'll send you a copy! Student s other choices included a speech as Olemaun, a skit, a song and a research presentation amongst other options.

Students working on bulletin board, we used the ACT resource published by UWO and TVDSB to work through an NGO simulation. One group took on the role of the local NGO focusing on West Nile Virus, a concern in our region, naming their organization Get The Spray! The other group focused on an international initiative on malaria, naming their organization Stop The Bite.

This was the final product, they presented to the rest of the class.

Students working on Canadian lap books, this resource can be found on Rundes Room teachers pay teachers store, amazing product!!!

Some of the finished products!

 These are students monitoring their thinking. In one of the sessions I went to our school decided we would be focusing on making our thinking visible, students do this by filling out sticky notes or directly in their reading journals about their thinking, one sticky has "what I read" while the other has "what I think." Students explain ideas that pop in to their head, themes, ideas, questions, connections, inferences, images etc. 

I had to show you this pic of the work station after students completed their art, if you are a teacher or work with kids you will appreciate the chaos, enjoyment and mess that ensued!!! Teacher fail for not putting down newspaper. Note the chart paper.... Here are the finished products! I am thrilled with them!!!

I think that's enough for now! the good thing is that I found out blogger has an app for iPad so expect more posts now that I've figured that out!!!!

Have a great weekend!!!


PS I have it on good authority that this art was the best day of school so it :)

Friday, 6 December 2013

Photo Friday!

I decided I wanted to share some stuff I've been doing in my room. I finally tried out the ipad our school has and took some pics, Here's a peek of what we've been up to :)
It's not the best shot, but this is our fictional narrative unit, I decided to turn half my wall of fame into a writing focus board, on the board is the covers of two mentor texts we used, a small anchor chart that each student keeps in their notebook, a huge "Somebody Wanted But So Then" chart where I read a mentor text and students filled out all parts, we then came together to discuss what we thought we should put down for each category. I am breaking down my unit as much as possible to really focus on character creation and give more value to the planning stage. I feel I have been skimming it over and not giving it the time it deserves.

This is a photo of my class using my smart board with a Les Plan article that we are labelling all the text features. Of course the interactive feature would not work for some funny reason so we kept right on going and labelled all the text features we could find and started a discussion about how they help our comprehension, a big focus at a professional development series I am attending every few weeks. My next step is to have the kids come up and re label it with our stickies. I should mention they also have their own copy and this is Day 3 of our shared reading.

This is a photo of my bathroom system, I know it looks complicated, I used to do the put the pass on your desk, no need to ask, put the pass back on door knob when done, always can tell who is out by where passes are, BUT this year I had some students who literally were rotating who was out of the room. So with the help of an Educational Assistant friend, Misty Hutchison, came up with this. All students start the day on green, there is a "boy" magnet and a "girl" magnet. When you need to use the washroom, you don't ask, you just place the appropriate magnet over your pocket. You also flip your card to red. When your card is flipped to red you have no more bathroom trips. I reset it each block of the day. It is working out very well but looks complicated I know!

This is the web we created to go with the shared reading that is in the above picture, on this day, the second day of the shared reading we looked at not just one reading strategy but I put up a few different strategies and had students share if they did ANY of them, as not everyone interprets or comprehends a book the same. Again this is taken from "Journeys In To Literacy" Professional Development I am attending. I really enjoyed the discussion that took place because more people seemed engaged, suddenly if someone didn't have a visual it was okay because maybe they had a connection, or a question they came up with. I am leaning towards focusing more on inferencing as very few people had something to contribute for this one.

Hope these ideas are helpful for someone!

Kat :)

PS How LONG was this week!!!! Happy weekend :)

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Light Bulb!

Wednesday, November 27 2013

So today I had saw something today in my classroom that was awesome! Here's the scoop:

As a read aloud I read Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton. The story is about Olemaun, an aboriginal girl who attends a residential school and struggles with the transition as well as the cultural shock.

So we finished the book, I kept the class engaged by scanning in all the pictures from the novel in to my Smartboard and we were able to have some discussions about the artwork in the book. There was also photos from Olemaun's childhood to discuss as well.

After we finished the book I wanted students to show me what they had learned from the read aloud, key moments, themes, extending activities that express their understanding of it. I decided to create a choice board which I have done other times, this time was different though. I am attaching the choice board we used in case anyone is using this read aloud and it may be helpful!

Fatty Legs Choice Board

Two days ago we discussed the options, yesterday I gave some more detailed information about the different tasks and they decided on one. I photocopied organizer sheets for each choice and today was our first "work" session of 40 minutes.

It was magical. . . .as much as that happens in Grade 5/6! There was a hum to the room as students spread out, some grabbing laptops for their residential school research, others working in small groups to discuss what they wanted on their mural. One group starting to write their script for their play, another student using her assistive technology to begin writing a speech Olemaun will give to siblings. I was worried though, would students rush their mural, would they skim over their tasks as they sometimes do, not today.

I finally saw how differentiated tasks can change the room. Everyone was focused, I had students who NEVER check in with me about their work hailing me over to check out what they had written, one group started planning for the next few days, wondering when they could use the ipad to tape their performance (another challenge, another day)

I was thrilled with my students work ethic today and engagement, I have never used a choice board and got that response, which begs the questions, was it the topic before? Was it my choices? Was it the combo of both? They are usually successful, but not like today, there was no bickering, no arguing, I had lots of time to walk around and speak to students as there was no fires to put out! I can only hope for the same tomorrow!

Kathleen :)