Sunday, January 27, 2013

What are you working on today as a writer?

I've seen a lot of posts lately on how other teachers teach writing so I decided to join along. 

This student regularly fills up pages all the way
down to the very end with words!
So before this year, students wrote in draft books and were responsible for writing something called DTAP (or DTEP? Something like that). It was very strict and students kept all of their writing in their draft books. Now in Madison where I did my student teaching, we taught writing completely 100% different. We used Lucy Calkins writing curriculum. In a nutshell, students write their own stories and books about things that really happened to them and each day, we teach a short minilesson to help them become better writers. 

Well, when I got to my new school, I definitely wasn't feeling the whole draft book kind of writing. I was used to kids writing what they 
wanted to write about and me teaching ways to make that writing better. I feel that students learn so much more if they have some independence in their learning so I secretly started teaching Lucy Calkins to my students. Basically I would rush through the draft books (since at my school, we all share lesson plans and teach the same stuff) to get to LC. Well, my kids loved it. They loved writing their own stories in their books and becoming authors. In fact, students used to ask me (when we were writing in draft books) when they could write stories. Music to my ears. 
This girl loves to show off her folder of stories. And that's probably only about two months of books too!

See the extra flap for added writing space?
Well long story short, I was talking to my principal who said that she used to use LC and that my school had the books buried in a closet! She then launched into that our writing scores weren't up to par and that she wanted us all to use LC. 

So the very next day = no more draft books and strictly LC.
So I love LC. The end. No just kidding. The beauty of LC is (I think) that students are able to really have an autonomy for what they do. They take pride and ownership in their books and stories.  

Proud of her work!

The year-long LC curriculum has seven books in the set:
1. Launching a Writing Workshop
2. Small Moments: Personal Narrative Writing 

3. Writing for Readers: Teaching Skills and   Strategies 
4. The Craft of Revision
5. Authors as Mentors 
6. Nonfiction Writing: Procedures and Reports
7. Poetry: Powerful Thoughts in Tiny Packages 

There are also 2 "teacher books" The Nuts and Bolts of Teaching Writing and The Conferring Handbook. The Nuts and Bolts tell how to launch writing workshop and The Conferring Handbook tells how to best help students individually during conferences. All of the books are easy to read since they written in a conversational style. Each minilesson depicts a real classroom in New York and is full of the dialogue that was actually said by the teachers and students. There are also side notes about what is happening, what do if your students need more time, and LC uses real life authors to show children what writers do. Also, each of the books builds upon the others and each book lays out specific minilessons that go in a certain order. Writing workshop also ends with a sharing time when a few students are invited to share what they have written that day with the rest of the class. They showing off their work!

She struggled with writing at the beginning of the year
and now can write lots of words.
And most are readable!
To me, there is nothing more satisfying than the "hum" of writing workshop. Some children are writing, some children are cutting flaps for their books, other children are stapling pages together. And I am going around to different kids, checking in on what they are working on and helping them become better writers. I might be helping one student stretch out words to include more sounds so it is easy-to-read. Then I go to another student to help him add periods and capital letters. And then I might check in with another student to help her add dialogue and get the quotation marks placed correctly.

My new friend from California...he'll catch on :)
To me, this is the best way to teach writing. It's also the only way I've taught writing so I may be a little biased, but my kids are excited to write and everyone can easily write 3 or 4 page books with others often writing 6+ pages. 

I recently got a new student from California and it's so obvious that he's never written this way before. He struggles to write stories that are cohesive and on one topic, even a struggle to get him to put multiple ideas on multiple pages. I've loved seeing how far my kids have come as writers and I can't wait to see how much more progress they make in the remaining months of school! 

Totally random note now. So I started off the year with way more girls than boys. And for awhile, I was only losing boys. But now the tables have completely flipped. I keep losing girls and getting new boys. Now I have way more boys than girls! 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Poetry Club Members Only

So today was the first day of poetry club for seven of my first graders. These kiddos are reading at grade level but they aren't reading very quickly. So with some tips from my assistant principal, I have launched poetry club today! Poetry club is (hopefully) going to increase my kiddos' reading fluency, both reading speed and less robot-reading. 

So the first thing we did is made poetry folders. Nothing fancy - they got to pick what color folder they wanted and write their names on it with a marker. 

Now the real work of poetry club. 

I gave each of them a copy of the poem and we read it multiple times.
1. I read it to them while they tracked with their fingers.
2. We all read together.
3. The students read to together.
4. I listened to each child read while the others practiced. 

So the bulk of poetry club happens at home. It's the student's job to read the poem at home to anyone that will listen - like mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, friend, brother, sister, cousin, neighbor, ANYONE!! And that person has to sign and date a sheet that says that the student read it.

And in order to inspire the students to do that, a little bribe of candy never hurt right? The student that reads it the most will get a special reward. I was thinking a juice box and a lollipop. 

Also, during centers, these students must pull out their poetry folder and practice reading their poem. Then, on Friday, I will have them read it to me to see if they have achieved mastery.

I'm a little worried about students not doing it at home. But hopefully the prospect of juice and candy increased fluency will get them to do it!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What a week...

What. A. Week. For starters, it has been endless. Like the longest week of my life. And I can't believe that it's Thursday. It seems like it should have been Friday days ago. 

And to add more, I have lost two students this week, got a new one, and one came back after missing a week of school last week. 

And it's been unusually cold in Phoenix - we're talking like high 40s/50s - so not actually THAT cold, but cold for what I am now accustomed to.

ANDDD I have felt sick all week. Like headache, stomachache, achy body, over-exhaustion. I went to bed at 8:00 last night!!!! Crazy!!

Let's just say, this weekend has never been more anticipated. And the fact that it's a three day weekend is enough to get me over the moon! 

So one thing that my students are really struggling on is fluency. With AIMS Web testing, they are graded on how many words they can read in one minute. At the end of first grade, we hope that they can read 68 words in one minute. So right now, they should be at about 30ish words. However, a bunch of my kids are stuck in the high teens and twenties. So on Monday, I'll be starting poetry club with them. We will be reading a poem together on Monday and then it'll be their job to read it during centers as well as at home. They all seem pretty excited about it so I hope it helps with their fluency! I'm also starting a chapter book club too for my higher readers - hopefully next week - but I'm having trouble finding enough books for them since I want them to be reading the same book. Gah! Hopefully I can find enough for them!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

What's Ahead for 2013

I'm linking up with Michelle at Making it as a Middle School Teacher for her fun linky party - What's Ahead for 2013.

Here is what's ahead for me!!!

Professional Read - I got Work Hard, Be Nice for Christmas. It's written by Jay Mathews. It's about the two teachers who founded the KIPP schools so I'm hoping to get some inspiration from the book. 

Personal read - I couldn't pick just one so I made it my goal to just read more. I feel like I haven't read for fun in ages and I need to start again.

Professional Development - My district offers free classes that count as clock hours. When we reach 15 clock hours, we get a pay increase. So I might as well take advantage of these free classes to better my teaching.

Favorite Upcoming Lesson - Guided Reading in general is one of my favorites. I love seeing my students get better and better with each passing week. And the other teachers have said that our kiddos really grow in February/March so I'm looking forward to it!

Life Event - Oh, just getting married in 6 months. I'm super excited!!! :D

Classroom Must Have - I have been hoarding/saving/collecting children's books for about three years, and I probably have about 500 or so. I use them all the time - for read alouds, for centers, for when I have about 5 minutes of down time, etc. My kiddos love them!

Blog Goal - Just. Blog. More.

Classroom Must Go - I have no idea how it happened, but I have so much paper. And my filing cabinet has no organization to it whatsoever. Basically, a recipe for disaster

Vacation - our unplanned honeymoon! Where it is, no one knows yet - not even me. We haven't really started planning it yet; we've just talked about possible places briefly. We need to get going on that though!

Favorite School Wide Event - Every quarter (I think?), my school does awards assemblies. Students who were Student of the Month, had perfect attendance, or had excellent behavior get awards and their parents are invited and it's really adorable and they love it!

Technology Focus - So I have an Activboard that I rarely use, mainly because I don't really know how. I need to figure out everything it can do though since it's such a wonderful resource!

Personal Goal - Embrace Phoenix life means that I need to stop moping and get out and do things! I'm hoping to take an art class and finally find a church home. No more church shopping! And hopefully start to make friends outside of school.

Professional Goal - Start seriously considering master's programs. I want to get started soon so it won't be too hard to start back up. I just need to find a program and a school and figure out if/how it will transfer when we no longer live in Arizona. So much to do!!

Your turn! Go link up!