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!
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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!