Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Can you relate?

So, this post has nothing to do with a new, great idea, but everthing to do with just needing to share "teacher" thoughts:

Thought #1: I'm tired.

Thought #2: My team-teacher is coming back after being out for 2 weeks with a broke ankle...OMG!! Thank GOODNESS! I have missed her!

Thought #3: What was I thinking??? I have 3 kids (one still in diapers), I'm 40 years old, and I'm married to a in the WORLD am I supposed to have time to work on my Master's-much less run in a 5k...ha!ha!ha!ha!

Thought #4: I DON'T want to be a principal.

Thought #5: Surely there is a curriculum/training job out there that's waiting for me.

Thought #6: Be patient.

Thought #7: I miss co-teacher from Mt. Vernon. I miss collaborating with her. I miss having her in my classroom every 30 minutes or so. I miss combining our classes and co-teaching. Bummer. Oh well.

Thought #8: The holidays are coming up! Yay! I miss my family, and it's my favorite time to teach (besides January, February, March, April, and May-especially May).

Thought #9: I'm out of thoughts, but I need to make it to 10.

Thought #10: I've found a GREAT place to raise my kids. It may be a challenge for me, but I've never given up before, so why start now. I have fantastic principals to help guide me and a team that supports me in every way imaginable.

Okay...Thought #11: I'm thankful.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Writing Realistic Fiction

At first, I really thought this was going to be a HARD genre to teach, but actually, it's turned out pretty simple....and fun! I started by reading Lucy Calkins' #4 book (from her series on Writer's Workshop) "Writing Fiction: Big Dreams, Tall Ambitions". Now, let me warn you, Lucy is a very wordy writer. But then, again, so am I, so it was an easy read for me! My colleague and I already had plans for this week before I read the book, so we had to back-track a little (my mistake!).

The BIG concept: students need a good writer's notebook FULL, and I mean FULL of writing ideas. This is not just the usual, "Things I know a lot about", or "Things that are DEAR to my Heart". I mean what serious, REAL writer's do. They write down EVERY little bitty thing they notice, hear, experience...

I started by having my students think about their weekend and start a list of"Things I "noticed" over the weekend: " (I had a sample list on the board for them as well: 1. an ambulance parked outside Wal Mart 2. The man next door plays football every night with his son. 3. The dog across the street barked all night long.)

I then proceeded to model my thinking... I looked through my own journal and came across a page that was full of places I'd moved to. I spoke my thinking outloud and demonstrated my writing on the Smartboard.

"Hmmm...I've moved a lot. That must be a subject that means a lot to me. I could write about several places I've moved to. I think I'll focus on my move to Katy. (Writing on the board) I moved to Katy over the summer from a small town. My  neighborhood is pretty big with large houses all around. I see a lot of kids outside playing. I wonder if my own children will be able to make friends. (Talking now..) Hmmm. I  think I could write a realistic story about this. I could name my main character, Grace. So it could go something like this:

(Writing again) Grace moves to Katy from a small town. She sees kids playing outside her window as she's unpacking boxes in her room. She wonders if she will ever be able to make new friends in this small town.

My students become excited and join in on the story line....

"Maybe she rides her bike later and meets some of the kids." or, "Maybe she's really shy and has to overcome her shyness to be able to meet new people." Both good points and I validate their thinking by jotting down their ideas with my ideas.

This continues as we also come up with ideas for realistic stories for the examples I've listed on the board: "I saw an abulance parked outside Wal Mart. Can we create a realistic fiction story with this idea??" The students talk in small groups and come up with some CRAZY stories!

Then the students find an "I noticed..."idea from their own writer's notebook. They extend their thinking as I did, and then create a character name and problem.

This is extended into today lesson. We created a foldable that resembles the story mountain we have used previously (Character, setting, problem, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution, conclusion). Wow!!! My kiddos did an AWESOME job with this! I was so impressed! We have our stories planned out and ready to start our roughdrafts tomorrow!

Of course, MODELING is the KEY here! Tomorrow, I will model my roughdraft and they will begin theirs. I can't wait to see how these stories turn out!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Parent Conferences I'm one of those WEIRD teachers who actually like parent conferences! Why??? Because, for example, this past Friday I learned so much more about my students that will help me, help them, reach their goals as learners! Does it wear me out to the point that I drag myself to my car and crash as soon as I get home...YES! But on Monday,  I can use all the new information I have to improve my teaching strategies.

I have AMAZING  parents (I usually do!), so this year will be full of GREAT learning experiences for both myself and my students!

We just started a unit on inferencing. We read The Memory String by Eve Bunting. If you haven't shared this story with your class, PLEASE do so IMMEDIATELY! Not only does it have wonderful life lessons (themes) we can share with our students, but the character analysis is amazing. We filled in a 3 column chart: Character/What the Character does or says/Our inference. We filled in the chart as we read the book. Students  were completely engaged and many related to the story line. Here is the book if you're interested:
The Memory String