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 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.