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Tuesday
Mar242015

My First 40 Book Challenge!

I just realized that it has been a month since I have written on my blog ….

AAAAAAAHHHHHH

That means there are so many ideas, reflections, and learning experiencing bouncing around in my head just waiting to get out!

I feel like I accomplished something yesterday …

I completed my first 40 book challenge!

My daughter and I finished a book we were reading together at bedtime last night!

As a fan of Donalyn Miller, I had read about the challenge and thought it was a good idea but didn’t really think it was for me since I like to read and read regularly.

While sitting in a comfy seat outside sessions at a conference, I started talking with the lady sitting not too far away … we became quick friends!  She told me about her experience doing a 40 book challenge for herself and how it opened her eyes to so many possibilities in various genres.

I smiled and thought that was very interesting, but I feel that I know a lot about books, so I know the ones that I will enjoy.

Or so I thought …

In January I started a new job as a gifted education teacher at 3 elementary schools. The reading teacher in me thought that I should talk to students about what they were reading and why

Based on some of those conversation, I decided it would be a good idea for me to read some of those books and others that I could share with them

That is when I remembered the idea of the 40 book challenge …

So that became my goal!

And what a wonderful journey I have had reaching that goal!

I have read books that I would not have chosen to read otherwise and really enjoyed them!

Since many of the students I work with were preparing for the Elementary Battle of the Books in our school system, I read many of those books so we could talk about them (and because they are good books).

My confidence is recommending books has grown! I even told my dad he needed to read one of the books after I finished it. He did and it led to a great conversation (not that either of us ever has a problem talking anyway but it helped me learn much more about his past and experience with polio).

I read books in genres that I am not a fan of, like Science Fiction, because it was part of the challenge. And some of the students I work with are fans of that genre so it helps me to make connections.

Not only am I being a good model for reading for the students but also for my daughter! We got some new books the other day and she told me that there is one I can’t read until she reads it first!

That makes me smile!

I did not set a time limit on how much I would read each day or when I needed to finish the challenge. I just started reading and that led to even more reading!

This weekend, I finished a book and thought about taking a break before starting another one. I tried but I felt lost and like something was missing …

I have already finished my first book for my next 40 challenge! 

So even though I know the type of books and authors I enjoy the most, being exposed to a wide variety of books helps me help others more!

 

*I keep a list of the books I read over on shelfari and goodreads … I haven’t decided which I like best yet

Tuesday
Feb242015

With A Purpose ...

Since one of my goals is to stretch the thinking of my students, I think reflection is a good way to help my students think about their thinking …

So I have started asking questions to start conversations about the thinking strategies and skills used that day in class …

With my 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students …

And anyone else who happens to be in the room!

I made these signs to display in my classroom

I have goals for skills and strategies to encourage and support each day 

But there are many times when students come up with so many more than the ones I expect!

In order to keep students from just listing things that they think I want to hear (or what I call “making a grocery list”), I ask follow up questions so students can work on using details to support answers.

But not in a boring way 

Many times I have wished I was recording those learning conversations we have at the end of class since I never know what is going to be said

Most of these times these conversations lead me to smile!

We do some fun activies …

But fun activities with a purpose!

Monday
Feb232015

Changing Excuses to Reasons to DO!

Last week I shared that I thought I had a breakthrough with one of my groups of students:

  • Then it was time for my 3rd grade group. I haven’t felt very connected with this group (been meeting with them twice a week since middle of January) but things seemed to CLICK today!!!  We did a creative writing activity using a task card from the Wacky Writing Prompts mini pack.  Students had an object, a place, and a person that they needed to include somewhere in the story. We brainstormed possibilities and then I just let students write. I really tried to stay quiet to not interrupt the thinking and writing process. Seeing student ideas unfold and float out onto pages just made this writing teacher’s heart sing! 

Since we were out of school due to snow and ice, I did not see those students again for a whole week …

So in some ways I thought I might have to start all over again today …

I was wrong!!!!

And that is a good thing!

I managed to find some laptops that were not being used during the time I meet with this group, so while home due to snow, I was trying to figure out what I could do to keep the connection going with that class and possibly find a way to use the laptops.

As an instructional technologist, I shared with teachers the benefits of having students blog, so that crossed my mind, but …

The excuses for not doing that crossed my mind too …

I don’t meet with these students every day. I don’t know what they can do. I was afraid it would be too much for me to handle. That group of students is not a small group.

But then I realized that those were EXCUSES and not REASONS for me not to do something …

Those actually should be reasons for me TO DO something …

And since blogging is the way I started with technology and using technology in the classroom, maybe that would be the best way for me to start again …

So while all those thoughts were spinning around in my head, my daughter (8) was doing more than just thinking ideas …

She was posting on the blog her 3rd grade teacher set up for the class …

Her teacher attended one of the sessions I did on using KidBlog in the classroom, but I learned more from her example (as I saw through my child) that she learned from me at that session …

My daughter posted more on her blog last week than I did on mine!!!!!!!

Her teacher had instilled confidence in her to know what to do and be inspired to do it  …

Even when not in the classroom!

So I chose to take that plunge too!

Yesterday my 3rd grade group began blog posts sharing the stories they wrote last week (using a prompt from the Wacky Writing Prompts mini pack)

And even though I often say that our students can do so much more than we (teachers) think they can, I am excited to say how pleasantly surprised I was at the WONDERFUL job that group did!

Towards the end of our time together, I told students that they could follow the same path we took to get to the blog (went through the school webpage and then my teacher page) if they wanted to work on their post from any computer with internet.

As the group was leaving, a few students came over just to make sure they had the correct usernames and passwords in case they wanted to get back on the blog to work …

This smiling teacher gladly shared that info!

And one girl asked me if she could start another story on a new post after she finished the first one 

Can you guess my answer?

:)

 

I admit that I was scared and was not sure things would go well.  I guess that is a pretty bold statement for someone who spent the last 5 years encouraging teachers to take chances and try things with students.

So I decided to follow my own advice …

And couldn’t be happier!

I have a feeling this small step will encourage my students to want to do even more …

And I need to follow their lead!

 

Friday
Feb202015

What Can We Do Today?

It is COLD!

There is ICE outside!

So what are we doing inside … we are creating!

Last night I showed my daughter this step-by-step video tutorial that was made by kids for kids!

She loved the project and wanted to get started right away!

So we gathered supplies and took over the kitchen table!

Here is her creation:

My little one had a great time following the instructions to create as well as coming up with ideas to make it unique!

She also started asking questions about making her own video giving instructions on how to make something …

It sounds like she was inspired … not only from the end result but also by the whole process

Which gives this teacher some ideas for the classroom …

  • write instructions
  • activities for following instructions
  • create video demonstrations
  • simple materials for projects (all this one took was a cereal box, yarn, scissors, sharpies, and aluminum foil)
  • math discussions … types of lines, shapes, angles

 

You never know where you might find ideas and inspiration …

 

By the way, after my daughter finished this creation, she was determined to teach me how to finger knit!

 

My daughter has had more practice, but I think I am starting to get a little better …

Since my aunt asked my daughter to teach her too, maybe that is a video demonstration with instructions we can do together!

Monday
Feb162015

STEM, a Book, and Wacky Writing ... Makes for a Great Morning

I had a really good day today …

And it is not because students got out 2 hours early due to a winter weather forecast!!

The 4Cs (Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication) as well as lots of thinking skills made an appearance in my classroom today!

Here is a quick overview of a few things that really made me smile today:

  • My morning began with a group of 4th and 5th grade students. I let students vote whether to do a creative writing activity or a STEM activity. It was a good thing I had the needed materials since STEM won the vote today! Bring on the toothpicks and mini-marshmallows as we embarked on the Three Billy Goats Gruff challenge found on Starfish Education. (I took lots of pictures and made some great observations, so be on the lookout for me to share more soon)
  • Next came a group of 2nd grade students. Over the weekend, I got to visit my favorite little bookstore (Quail Ridge Books). I don’t normally look at the children’s books there (I know that is not a think you expect to hear from an elementary school teacher), but one book caught my attention: The Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock. I loved the books so much when I read it this morning before school that I just knew I had to use it today! After doing a read aloud (which I love to do) and a think aloud where we discussed the things we noticed both in the story and in the illustrations, we did a listening activity inspired by Elizabeth Peterson’s book Inspired by Listening
  • Then it was time for my 3rd grade group. I haven’t felt very connected with this group (been meeting with them twice a week since middle of January) but things seemed to CLICK today!!!  We did a creative writing activity using a task card from the Wacky Writing Prompts mini pack.  Students had an object, a place, and a person that they needed to include somewhere in the story. We brainstormed possibilities and then I just let students write. I really tried to stay quiet to not interrupt the thinking and writing process. Seeing student ideas unfold and float out onto pages just made this writing teacher’s heart sing! 

I want my classroom environment to be welcoming for the 4Cs and other higher order thinking skills to be frequent vistors or maybe even move in …

My morning reminded me of why I do what I do!