I moved grade levels this year and I have been keeping up with all of the great ideas posted on other blogs during the school year, but I haven't made much time to give back. I learned about Animoto from Katie's post and I had to try it. I used pictures and video taken during our non-fiction writing unit. We shared it with parents in March.
I'm sitting in my living room surrounded by stacks of books, papers and notebooks. I have pages and pages of notes on some of the great professional books I've read this summer. I spent a long time at Staples trying to find the perfect new binder to use as my planning book this year. It's hot pink and sitting beside me. I also bought one so that I could begin to put together a notebook to use when conferencing with students about their reading. It's on the sofa behind me. I have a new set of content standards because I'm changing grade levels this year. There is a draft of a pacing guide I've created for myself. I've been doing so much over the summer gathering information and the tools I'm going to need, and now I'm getting ready to put these new tools to work. I think that one of the best things about teaching is the chance that we are given over and over to begin again. I always feel that I've been given a chance to take a deep breath before jumping in. An opportunity for renewal. This year after a long summer break, I am refreshed and ready.
Last week my class wrapped up a writing unit on experience writing. I asked each child to choose one book to publish from the collection of books they had written during the unit. I told children that we would plan a time when other children in the class would get to read their published book.
I did a few things to prepare for share day. First,
because the children would be reading the books of
other children in the class, I typed their books. I felt that it would be easier for other children to read if they didn't have to try to decipher invented spellings. I also have several children with handwriting that is difficult to read. Second, in Ann Marie Corgill's book Of Primary Importance, she uses a form during her share time so that children can comment on the writing of other children in the class. The form looks like a t-chart. On the left side the student who is commenting writes their name and on the right side of the chart they make a comment about the student's book that they are reading. I planned to have children use this form to give feedback to fellow authors in the class.
On share day I had students put their published book on their desk with a blank comment sheet next to it. I told students that they would be moving from desk to desk. They were to sit down at any empty desk that was available, read the book that was sitting out and write a comment on the comment sheet for the author. When they were making comments, they were to keep in mind the guidelines we use during our share time in Writer's Workshop.
I turned on an Enya CD and let them begin. Once they got the idea of what I was asking them to do, it was so amazing! They were so engaged in what they were doing and they took it so seriously. They didn't utter a sound. Sharing this way was such a departure from my usual, "Let's go down the hall and you can read your book to a kid in the kindergarten class." When I have kids share that way, I always see one kid reading and the other child is looking around the room. The room is usually so noisy with conversation, I always wonder if anyone can hear anything anyway. This share day was so calm and children were so engaged in what they were doing that it gave me goosebumps. They were thinking thoughtfully about what they were reading.
I was working with a group of readers when I turned to my right and saw something that just brought a smile to my face. A room full of readers. I went quietly to get my camera. They were so engrossed they didn't even notice.
When I returned to school in January I did it with a new mindset. I wanted children to spend less time doing "centers" and more time reading. In the past I had trouble with independent and partner reading in my classroom. I struggled to keep children actively engaged. This year I have made some changes that have made a huge difference. First, I got rid of almost 200 books from my classroom library, and donated them to other teachers and a local charity. (Don't gasp.) I weeded according to the following criteria: 1. If it looked old, I got rid of it. 2. If I hadn't seen a child read the book in the last year, I got rid of it. 3. If I had never been inclined to use the book as a read aloud, I got rid of it. I purchased new numbered tubs and labeled classroom books so that children could place them in the correct bin when they were finished reading. Second, I stocked my classroom with first grade friendly books. (Not leveled readers, but with books by authors such as Mo Willems and Jan Thomas.) Like all teachers, I do have a budget so I have used my local library as a huge resource. Right now books that kids love like Punk Farm, Punk Farm on Tour and many others are on loan from the library. I have almost 90 books checked out from 4 different libraries. Finally, I do four read alouds a day. I make sure that at least two of those are new books that I will be adding to the classroom library. Kids are always more inclined to go for books I have read to them.
It was such a simple fix that has had such a huge impact. I'm so proud of how far many of these children have come as readers. Instead of a worksheet or game at the word study center, children are looking for a particular word chunk while they are reading so that they can add it to our class chart. Now the only talking going on in the classroom library is being done by a few children negotiating over who gets a certain book for their reading tub. It's an amazing thing to see and be a part of.
Dear Mr Blueberry by Simon James has always been one of my favorite books to read to kids during our unit on letter writing. When I attended Katie DiCesare's session on Routines That Support Word Study in the Primary Classroom at the Dublin Literacy Conference, she showed everyone the book Days Like This a collection of poems illustrated by Simon James. I got the book from the library last week and I fell in love with it. I think that this book is now at the top of my list of books of poetry for young children. I think that every poem in this book could be used as a poem of the week for word study. My personal favorites are The Seed and an original poem by Simon James called Bounce.
I have to answer this. I really wanted to start a blog, but the difficult part was that I couldn't think of a name for it. Believe it or not "The Blog with No Name" was already taken. Anyway, it was late at night and I had something to write about but I couldn't start the blog because it had no name. So I asked myself, "Why am I doing this?" It came to me. Because Thinking Matters. Reading blogs and blogging makes me self reflect and think about my own teaching and well..........thinking matters.