Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Best Part of Someone's Day

I was preparing a bunch of little notepads, odds and ends, etc for the Secret Santa gift exchanges that are happening this week. I had purchased a mix of notepads, never really looked at them closely--I just love notepads! I pulled one out of the pile and read the top, "You are the best part in someone's day."

Those were some words I needed to carry with me today. A day when I really did not think I had enough patience to make it all the way through. A day when it sometimes seemed as though I might just slip right over the edge. But, I had those little words cycling through my negative dialogue and they kept pulling me back into reality. A reality that if I remain grounded I cannot slip.  That we've all visited the edge and most of us balance on it just fine. That little quote kept me balanced.

By the way, in case you need this tomorrow, remember:
You are the best part in someone's day.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How's Your Word Workin'

Did you ever find yourself surrounded by magnetic letters and say, "I should know what to do with all of these?"

Well, that was me a few days ago.  I found myself in one of my cupboards at school and before I knew it the cupboard was emptied all over my carpet and I discovered a scary reality. I had tubs upon tubs of magnetic letters with very little purpose. I did the logical thing, packed them up in a crate and put them in the back of my car. Ah, no longer a problem in my cupboard, but what was I going to do with them??
I have long been attempting to get really good with "word work." You know, get it all organized, have a bunch of awesome activities at my finger tips. Well, I can now happily say I am one activity closer. I spent my Monday evening finishing up what I started on Sunday, a magnetic letter sorting marathon. Isn't it beautiful? I even ended up with a huge tub of, "to donate" letters and some empty containers. Now my letters will be workin' for me!
On an additional note, here are the word work activities I have started this year as well as a small list of what I plan to get going soon. I started small and I really think that my word work skills are growing. I have also included a few sites that will likely overwhelm the "word work" newcomer, but they have really good ideas. Just tackle a few and get started!

I began by assigning a word work activity to each day of the week. Lately I have been doing two to three to differentiate for student needs. I hope to get to a point where more activities are open and students can choose their form of word work, take their word list, and get busy!
Here is my starter list:

Play dough words--Make snakes into letters or make a pancake and write on it with a pointy object--golf tee is one of the best ideas I have seen.
Watercolor Words--Write words with yellow or white crayon, wash over them with watercolor paint for a wax resist piece of word work art.
Connect Four--Fill an 8X8 or 16X16 grid with words students have learned. Taking turns with a partner, students read a word and cross it out, then color in a set of four when they "connect four."
Word Puzzles--Write letters of a word on small square pieces of card stock. Write the word on an envelope and place the squares inside. Students put the word together then write it down; I start with names.
Dry Erase or Chalk Boards (I also got some neat black dry erase boards this year for something different).

What I hope to start soon:
My new and improved word boxes! I have white boards that I have divided with tape into three columns. One column is for a word card--read the word, the second column is for making the word with letters, then the final column is a spot to write the word with a dry erase marker. I think my little word sort boxes will work nicely with those divided boards.
I also bought some pebble style fish gravel that I am going to have students use to do "pebble spelling." I have mats with the word already written down. Students can cover the letters with pebbles forming the word. I would like to get some other objects to use like shells or flat glass pebbles.
Here are some great website resources too!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Still at a Crossroads

My journey in a nutshell, a big one I guess ;)
Back in September I picked up a book, Talking, Drawing, Writing by Horn and Giacobbe, that forced me to question many of my prior teaching methods and really look at what is important for the youngest writer.
I started the year with my old way, and two weeks in completely shifted.
I was loving the change, it felt good and I was seeing good results.
A few weeks ago I thought my students would be okay going from a drawing notebook of blank pages to their old marble covered draft books. It was okay for a few days, but I began to see students slip back to things they did the first two weeks of school. It was as though the form of their writing took a dive and I somehow lost my way too. I tried to rationalize, a change in materials could create a slip, but this was a slide that I was not expecting. Another reality, someone is going to ask to see my student's draft books at some point. If I don't have them, whatever I do have needs to be of value. I am striving for a miracle.
Had I continued with the plans and wisdom of Horn and Giacobbe I would have moved to booklets and not a journal. But here I sit, confused.
Since I really need to move on from this place, I am asking for help from those of you out there that may have tried both ways with young writers--booklets or journals?? Which do you prefer? In the past, I have been encouraged to use journals (draft books). I feel like this has mostly been due to the convenience of keeping everything in one place. However, I am struggling with this...a lot. Should teaching really ever be dictated by convenience? Is there a better way to utilize the journal--writer's notebook for ideas instead of the place they draft pieces? I really want to try the booklets that I am reading about in Talking, Drawing, Writing,  but feel a little apprehensive that it might flop, I won't be organized enough--or won't train the kids well enough. I know it will be a lot of management and I worry that my teaching of writing will be put on pause while I get everyone on track with paper, staplers, booklets, lines, no lines, etc. Then on the flip side of all that, I really think the booklets might push my writers to naturally expand and add details. I foresee a lot of good and  hope to have a happy update soon! I think by the New Year I will have a plan in action; something to look forward to!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Questioning and Reflecting--Which Way Should I Go?

A good decision really, maybe I didn't wait long enough. This weekend I was reminded of the book About the Authors, by Katie Wood Ray. I am annoyed with myself because I had resigned to the feeling that journals/draft books, whatever you may want to call them just don't fit for K's. I am frustrated.What do I need to re-program or re-focus to make it right?
For anyone who follows or checks in on my blog, you know I am going through a transition period, a renewal of sorts. I am trying to be intentional, trying to do what is asked, as well as do what is right.
A slippery slope of sorts I am finding.
I feel like I get going somewhere and then I reach an intersection with so many roads and it is a gamble as to what direction I am heading.
So, as I look into the weeks ahead and see disruptions to the process in front of me, I will hopefully tackle each one and continue to move forward.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Can You See It?

The Right Thing...
It is usually right in front of us, we might even feel it, more than likely want it, but sometimes things get in the way of doing it. Like, for instance, the wrong thing we have always done. We somehow talk ourselves into thinking it's right, we might feel a twinge in our stomach, but ignore it and go on because...it's what we have always done. Maybe it's even what people expect. I think that is where it all gets muddled and frustrating for teachers. Teachers who, with all their senses, know the right thing, but are still doing something else.
What is the cause of your fog?
What are you doing to see through it?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I've Got My Eye on You!

How do you monitor student learning? I hear different opinions on this topic as well as varying styles of the task.
I know by now if I don't write it down, make an appointment, create a checklist, or take notes on students learning--I will not remember. I think when I first started teaching and didn't have great tools for monitoring I was probably under an illusion that, "I know my students!" To some degree I did know them and probably could make good predictions of what they could/could not do at different points in the year. However, the actual day to day notes are so powerful for my day to day teaching...I can't imagine not doing it now!
This year I set a goal to lessen gaps in student progress. I think we all want to do this, but I am going to chart it better this year. I am starting with the foundational skill of letters/sounds and monitoring much more closely than I ever have before. Here is the monitoring form I am using. I am only checking in monthly with those who have not yet met the given target. It has also helped me figure out...if a students is missing just a couple letters/sounds I can easily sit with them to work on that during independent reading. 
I hope that the closer monitoring will get my "eyes on kids" a little closer and get me to be a little more intentional when I am making plans for them!
Visit http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/ and share your slice of life today!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I Waited...The Results of Waiting for Readiness

I waited to do so many things this year. I waited to push students to write down a story, instead I told them to talk. I waited to introduce writing resources (ie., letter charts, word walls, etc) and instead I let them explore what they knew. I waited, and I didn't say "Write down the first letter in each word." ...I waited. I told them, "Show me what you know!" They drew lovely pictures. I told them, "Show me your details." They did, in their pictures and verbal stories.
I WAITED, afraid a little, but I waited anyway. I started the year with a draft book during writer's workshop--then I started over, giving them drawing books, knowing that at some point I would get to where I am today. Today I am so happy I waited; that is my present!

Yesterday I pulled out their draft books (the one's they began the year with) and re-introduced them to their new friend. We talked about how it was really very similar to their drawing and writing notebook. They could talk first, they could draw, they could color and add detail, and they could write down what they know. And, they did. Next step:  I pulled two samples of draft book writing for my writing model today...two students that I noticed did what I asked--"Write down what you know!"
Today's lesson was about "valuing where we are." Each of us is in a different place as we are learning. Some of us know some words and letters, some know how to tell a story, and some of us know how to draw pictures with details. My two samples demonstrated different ways of showing what students know. It was a great moment when we noticed that one student had written the word "to" in his draft book, using the correct letters, and another student had writing "tu" because right now that is what she knows about the word "to." Following the lesson the students were validated and it really showed in their work. Students were not afraid to work on writing today (like I had sometimes felt in past years), they were not afraid to put down what they know (because writer's workshop is now less overwhelming to them)! I valued what each one could do instead of pushing them to frustration.

Here are some examples of student work today!!  :)
 (I love this one, she still has to finish tomorrow...stay tuned. Below is her script).
"I learned something."

"I was shooting my bow and arrow."

 "I was eating pizza."

 "Me and Peter on the playground."

 "I ate dinner at Tim's Pizza."

 "I am going to someone's house."

 "I was going to my grandma's"

 "I was playing soccer."

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Wordless Books for Halloween!

My students made wordless books this week. I thought the opportunity to write stories about our trick-o-treating experiences was too good to pass up. Everyone naturally has a beginning, middle and end to their story. They all have fresh experiences in their bank of ideas and they love drawing themselves in costume! Not to mention they can't help but talk about it for days anyway, so why not make it a learning opportunity. It took about three days to complete. It was a fun writing project and a great chance to continue to work on storytelling.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Drawing Moment With My Daughter

Both of my children love to draw. My son, who is six, is quite good and loves to practice all the time. This tends to annoy my 4 year old daughter, who really doesn't understand the difference between a six and four year old--except he seems to be able to do everything she can't do. :(
So frustrating for a smart little sweety.
She also tends to be on the independent side and resists help for almost anything, unless of course it is something she can truly do on her own...aren't kids funny that way?
We sat at the table tonight and she said, "Mommy, I really want to make a book and draw in it."
I got excited obviously, took out paper, stapled, got the crayons, who cares if it was 7:30 and bedtime, I was taking advantage of this moment. She probably was too.
"What do you want to draw?"
"I want a princess book."
Of course she does, that's what she thinks about right now whether I like it or not. Maybe a princess book is a good thing. So, I take her through the drawing using my finger only, outlining the shapes she needs. Then she tries it with her finger and draws the shapes. She picks up a purple crayon and the magic begins. I should have video taped her reaction. She was so thrilled by her drawing. As she demonstrated more skill and control, she slowed down even more and showed more skill and control. She is typically easily frustrated, goes too fast, and will just give in to the scribble. Not this time. She saw that she could do it and just had to take time to think it through. She kept busy coloring the hair and dress and I walked away for a few minutes. When I came back, she had drawn another "princess" on the cover, almost exactly the same. Even more pride for her this time because she did it all on her own! I was so happy for her.
Don't you just love little hands, so precious.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My New Planning Process in Stages!

It's time for kindergarten writer's workshop and the students are going to try a new way of planning. I have been modeling my own stories for several days using a blank book, (they also tried this with their third grade buddies last week). I point to where my story would be, what it might say, and then with my finger draw and point to what illustrations would be included. Today is the day for students to use their own blank planning book with their knee to knee kindergarten planning pal. The planning pals have been going for a while, and we have worked out expectations and behaviors that are acceptable, but anytime you add something, like a new material to the mix, there is an opening for it to possibly fall apart for some students. Let's follow this student through his planning process. You will be able to see what worked and what did not work for him. You will notice how he recovers with re-direction and what kind of positive outcomes he accomplishes.

 Here are two students planning together. We will be following the boy in the blue shirt. Here he is talking through his story and his pal is listening. He is doing really well and is remaining on task. Then there is the transition from the pal to the drawing notebook. Below are his results.

When I first get back to him, he has drawn the picture on the left. I ask him  to tell me his story. "This is me on the monkey bars." Okay, so he has hung onto his verbal story and seems ready to try again, so I give him a new paper and he tries again. That is where the picture on the right comes in, yikes! I of course try not to disclose my disappointment, but I am frustrated by this at first. I had just talked to him, he was ready, why is it not transitioning to the page? Then I realize my mistake in the re-direction. He had held on to the verbal, but he had not held onto his visual plan. When he transitioned from the carpet to his book, he lost some of his planning on the way. This is to be expected, some kids can "hold" onto more than others. It goes back to what I have said before--I can't change someone's pace, all I can do is try to help him accomplish what he's capable of each day. 

Third try, neither of us are giving up, so we go back to the drawing board, or at least the invisible drawing board! I tell him to use my blank paper to show me his story. "Point to the paper and tell me all that I will see when I come back to check in with you." He starts to draw the monkey bars and I am again renewed with confidence that he can do this! I walk away again. (It is so hard to walk away, but it is one of the things I have learned over the years has to happen if you truly believe a child is capable of the task you are asking. It builds their independence. If they are not capable of the task, don't ask them to do it alone).

Then he goes and not only draws the monkey bars, he separates his words from his picture, organizing his page, and gets down words and letters that he knows! Wow, I was almost blown over with excitement!!

I learned a lot about this planning process. They are all benefiting from the verbal rehearsal with the blank booklet, some of them also need to visualize their plan in their drawing and writing notebook too before beginning. So, my next plan of action is to continue the blank booklet, for the talking through rehearsal. Then, as we transition to the drawing and writing notebooks, I will ask students to stop and visualize their story, what will I see when I walk over to check in?

I will keep you posted on the progress!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Third Grade Buddies Help Reinforce the Visual Plan

Here are some photos of my students with their third grade buddies. They are taking them through the steps of the visual plan. It was so great to see each student with an engaged partner asking them "who" and "what" questions. As much as I wish kindergarteners were as effective planning pals with each other, it is a tough process to get everyone listening, sharing and on task. It is nice to have some third graders to help model proper behavior and questioning as we keep trying this with each other during writer's workshop. Also included in the photos are the collaborative artwork and writing of the students following the plan. It was really fun, and you will definitely enjoy the stories and illustrations.
                                 Talking through our stories.

                       Getting one part of the story on paper together.

                  (I am building a fort with my dad).



                              (I am in the pet store looking for a cat).

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Visualizing the Possibilities

One of the suggestions in the book I currently can't take out of my hands (Talking, Drawing, Writing by Giacobbe and Horn) was to take the idea of verbal storytelling to visualization. When students in kindergarten tell a story it doesn't always sound like a story, but rather a list. What I have been trying to demonstrate to students is that their stories are really stories, to be heard and told. To make this more clear I am holding up a blank book and talking through their story as a model. For instance, as I have a student talk through her list for the class, I re-phrase it in story language while pointing to a blank page in a book--as if the words are there. Then we talk about what the illustrations might look like and where they might go. We even go as far as titling the story and giving it a title page, but nothing is actually written down, just visualized. I love this idea as a tool for planning and processing through a story.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

One Thing at a Time!

Do you ever try to shove a bunch of concepts into a little persons brain and then feel surprised when it doesn't really go well? I am continually telling myself to work on one thing at a time with students. Remain focused! I find this can be hard when I start to feel the pressure of getting through material and moving kids to the next level. However, trying to get kids to go faster really doesn't seem to work. They are going to go the pace they can go, there isn't much we can do about this except motivate them to reach that potential each day!
I continue to move through the lessons and amazing ideas of Horn and Giacobbe as I read Talking, Drawing, Writing. If you have read anything on my blog here recently and are getting tired of me talking about this book, let it be an indicator as to how good this book really is for the early elementary teacher.
It has really helped me focus and slow down. I feel so much joy during writer's workshop and the pace is their own; I love it!
Below is another example of a student's work both before and after talking through his writing. He is clearly a student who strings letters together because he knows that print carries a message, but he is forgetting to include some additional things that he knows.

Here M. reads his story, "I am going to the party."

 After conferencing with him, we talked about how nicely detailed his picture was. You can clearly see him and his mom in the car, on their way to the house down the road. I loved how he added depth to his picture with the driveway and the circle making it look farther away. I asked him, "where did you write the word the?" He then grabbed his pencil, because he and I both know he can spell this word, and he eagerly added "the." My next question was, "what do you know about the word, party?" to which he produced the /p/ sound and wrote "p." In a past life I would have likely done this as well as gone back and done an initial sound for each word, possibly revising parts of his picture as well. That would have been too much. I am still suppressing the urge to fix everything with a student, but I do really enjoy little bursts of instruction as opposed to getting stuck with one student for too long. He has so many good things going on, I should be more focused on what is going well, and less focused on what needs to be fixed. Hurray for M!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Who Says You Can't Teach an Old Dog New Tricks?

Interactive Writing...yeah, well...I wasn't a believer. I will admit this openly, I have kind of fought against it and did not see it working in my classroom. Until today. Isn't the reprogramming of ourselves amazing? I can't believe how open I am now that I have untied myself from the reigns of conformity.
Now, the interactive writing thing, that was something I gave up on even before the last whirl-wind of teaching writing I was swept into. I thought it was inappropriate and not engaging enough. Too long of a process and just plain not a good means of modeling writing for students. I was wrong.
I realized this as I read a different spin, or rather a simple twist on the idea in the book, Talking Drawing, and Writing by Giacobbe and Horn. Yes, the book I have been keeping at my bedside, hip side, and desk side at all times lately, yep that one! Since it is a good idea to have kids label pictures in their drawings as a means of beginning to show print carries a message, one of their suggestions was to use interactive writing to label your classroom, write rules, or other information for the classroom. I loved the label the classroom idea and tried it today with the word "cabinet." What a perfect word, one of my students picked it, and it could not have gone better. We are going to label one item in the room each day while I demonstrate how this reinforces our understanding of labeling our pictures in our drawing and writing notebook! Yahoo, the plan continues to fall into place, not sure where I will be next, but I am liking the journey. Here are photos of the latest work from their notebooks. So fun!
J. is working on a drawing of himself. He drew his legs to show movement. In his picture he is walking.

 Can you see the swing set?

 D. drew himself and his dad on their dirt bikes. I love the wheels! A week ago he would have said, "I don't know how to draw a dirt bike." But he doesn't say that now!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why Not a Writing Stamina Chart?

I have been dappling in the The Daily Five management system for about four years now and love the tools The Sisters offer in their book. This year I am doing the Daily Five much more closely matched to the routines of the book and really enjoy the results. I began the year with Read to Self, one of the Daily Five activities for literacy. I wasn't sure how to start but had noticed an idea on a blog (somewhere, can't remember now) on making a neat stamina chart that showed a stair step kind of visual that leads to your goal. It worked great and within two weeks my 4, 5 and 6 year old students were reading (pictures, words or storytelling quietly) for ten minutes without a break. It was amazing, and I must confess, this was something I didn't really think they could do, but I wasn't really doing it all quite right before. So, I had become frustrated with the volume control and focus of my students during Writers Workshop. Well, it finally dawned on me, they need to build stamina here too! So, the last two days I have been re-building their stamina for drawing. We just have two behaviors listed on the chart and one goal--to be better writers that can write/draw for ten minutes without a break. We did five minutes today without an interruption! I love it when a plan comes together. Here is the chart I made with my students. When we reach our ten minutes goal we will make a chart that lists what we can do during writers workshop to remain on the wall as a reminder. But, for now, this will get us on track for a good re-start! (It all goes along with my reprogramming program :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Drawing Time

I'll bring you up to speed...
I have been reading Talking, Drawing, Writing by Martha Horn and Mary Ellen Giacobbe, wow! It has really been pushing my thinking out of the comfort zone and I am on a new path for writing workshop.
The goal? Create exceptional excitement about writing to get a good product instead of trying to get a good product in hopes that students will enjoy the process.

Today I revisited the drawing lesson and talked about how to revise their picture. It went well and I was very excited to watch the students make decisions about whether to start a new drawing or add to the one from yesterday. Most chose to start a new drawing, I suspect because they knew they could do it better, and many added better detail this time around. My reprogramming is beginning to take shape and the improvement today was awesome. I could see the amazement in some of their faces, they couldn't believe they were drawing people...that actually looked like people. I used Mo Willems, Knuffle Bunny story as a model of some other ways to draw people. Tomorrow I am using a book illustrated by Lois Elhert called, Thump Thump Rat A Tat Tat. She uses basic shapes to make people in her illustrations, should be a nice accompaniment for those still figuring out their own technique for drawing a person. Below are some of the students drawings of people following the day one and day two lessons. I was excited!

 Day One: How to draw a person. She is definitely trying out what I demonstrated. Her improvement today was great to see and her proud smile was even better!

Day Two (same student): How to add details to a drawing
You can see that the clothing on her people today is more detailed, even a striped shirt. She forgot to draw a body on the first person, but made the decision to add clothing to create more of a body shape.

 This was a student's Day One of the drawing lesson sample. You can see that he has some fine motor issues but more pressing was he needed support to draw a person in the way I demonstrated.
However, check out his drawing from today a little further down!

  I could not believe the improvement. I pulled him with a small group and repeated yesterday's lesson just after today's whole group model. Then sent him off. His face was a light bulb of delight! I still can't believe it even as I look at his drawing right now. What an accomplishment for him!

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Buddies-A Reprogramming Project

One of my attempts to put a focus on talking and drawing was to plan some one on one attention for each of my students. Their third grade buddies fit the bill and a couple of weeks ago my third grade buddy (teacher extraordinaire) came and helped me model just how they would do that! We talked through a story I was writing, and modeled questioning techniques and behaviors that might come up--such as, what to do with a kindergartener who might just want to chew his shirt instead of draw! Then each of the K kids shared their stories and they were off with the colored pencils, crayons and paper, making books together. It was magic.

Today I started the drawing lessons. Now, I have done a couple drawing lessons this year already, hit or miss I'd say, but not terrible. Today was different though. It was like I was embarking on new territory. I actually drew a person as carefully as I could, demonstrating an oval technique for drawing people. As I was doing this, I sort of felt like it was crazy. Why am I drawing so well for five year olds who barely know how to draw a stick person? Haven't I been told this will crush them psychologically and they will feel as though they can never measure up...well, it was something like that. Anyway, I realized afterward why I was doing it. Did their people look perfect? No. Neither did mine, but not only were my drawings better, so were there's. They really put in effort to draw their person to look as real as possible. Tomorrow they will re-visit their people drawings and decide if they want to make changes or start a new drawing. HELLO, that is called revision people! I don't usually start revising until much later in the year, but with words not pictures. How cool is it that I am already going to use the R word with them and it is only October!?

My only fear at this moment...when it comes to assessment time, my kids might be behind. But, I am not following the GPS of my old ways, I am giving this a chance to work! That was a little pep talk for my doubting self that keeps creeping into this reprogramming process.
Hopefully tomorrow I have some samples to share. Oh, and I will also try to post my stamina chart for writing workshop...how long can we draw? Should make a good slice of life story tomorrow!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Reprogramming My Brain

So, did you ever feel like you have been programmed to teach one way, then you learn something new and you desperately attempt to try it, but your programming gets in the way every time? That is where I am right now. I am reading a book called, Talking, Drawing, Writing by Martha Horn and Mary Ellen Giacobbe.
I will start by saying, what I was doing wasn't all that bad, it got good results, but not great results. It got kids interested in writing, but not exceptionally excited about writing. My old way pleased people, and I even got others on board. It was what I like to call, "my starting point." I needed a place to start, anyone does, but now I am going on a new road. I am ignoring the GPS even though it thinks I am going to the same place I have always gone. I am starting fresh, but it's got me a little frustrated. I stand up to do my teaching model, begin the lesson, things are going well, and then the programming slips in--yikes! I find myself saying what I have always said, and doing what I have always done...haven't we all learned this does not get you anywhere new??
I had no idea making only a few small changes in my workshop routine and set-up would be so challenging. Just a couple of shifts for my focus and pow, it's like I don't know where I am sometimes. I hope to bring you more news from the road as I travel to the place where drawing and talking take center stage in kindergarten writing workshop.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Chartchums are Awesome!

Chartchums is a great blog, if you have not visited yet, you should! It is funny, I was reading something there the other day and so often I see things that look like variations of a chart I have made, but there is always something new that I take away. I love it!
Today I tried a very simple example they had on their site the other day. It reads, Writers...1. Think and Plan, 2. Sketch and Write, 3. Revise with Joy.
Now, the only change I made to the one I did with my class today was number three--Revise and Publish. Then, on the chart, students simply place a sticky note to show what part of the process they are currently working on. Isn't that cool, and so simple! That is the best part.
So, I did the chart today, took some photos to add tomorrow, and I can't wait to add the sticky note part by the end of the week. I think it will be a great visual for me and my students to remind them that they are all within a process of writing, that it doesn't all happen in one day...even in the first weeks of kindergarten when  you're lucky if your story is one sentence. They can only do so much learning in one day! Anyway, just a very nice and simple way to manage my writing workshop a little more efficiently.
Guess what...I start writing buddies on Friday! Can't wait to see how it goes. Have a great week.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Year of Growth

It's the end of the seventh day of kindergarten and things are looking up. I can't help but notice the kids who were sent to me ready for this challenge and the little one's who are barely potty trained, barely able to take care of personal needs and yet this is somehow not suppose to interfere with their education. Teaching is so daunting as it is, but now we are faced with the challenge of proving a year's growth. I agree that children deserve a year's worth of growth, but based on what as their baseline? In my district, a year's worth of growth is measured by your reading level. If you are reading at a level C by the end of kindergarten, then in that year you have made a year's worth of growth. For some this will be a year of growth and for others who may not even get close--they too will have made a year of growth, but not by that same measurement standard.
How do you demonstrate the growth of a kindergarten student in your district? What types of data do your teachers collect as soon as they can collect it, and how soon is too soon to collect data on a student (meaning the time of year)? Sometimes I wonder about data I collect at the beginning of the year, was it because they didn't know me well enough yet to perform or was it that they truly didn't know how to perform
I have been pondering what my goals for the year should be and I can't help thinking that I want a year of growth for each student, but because my kids are at the starting line, it is hard to know at what point they will cross the finish. Everyone's race is different and so often I feel saddened that it is a race at all.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Website Resources for the Elementary Teacher

If you are just starting out or just want a fresh idea for writing in the kindergarten classroom this site will do the trick. It outlines the whole year and even includes great ideas for incorporating writing into different areas of the room. Lots to look at and lots of nice guiding information to help you through the school year.

Great Kindergarten Literacy Website

If you like to offer read-alouds over the computer or even better, project them onto a screen from your computer, here is a list of sites that offer online read-alouds!

This is a mix of things, resources and books.

This one you have to join, but there is a 30 day free trial. It costs $499 per school for a year; might be a nice grant idea?!

This is another nice one that you would need to join. The cost is 79.95 for one classroom per year. Very well worth the money as it gives your students access to the site at school and at home. Uniquely, the books are at their reading level and there are many resources for teachers!