As promised yesterday, I have decided to bring back my practice of inviting students to write guest posts for me on Fridays during our Read, Write, Think! time. I gave a very brief description of what the students could do, then asked if I had any brave individuals willing to write a post for us. (I will allow up to four students to collaborate on a post.) Recognising that this was the first time they had ever done anything like this and acknowledging that I have not modeled for the class how to write a blog post, what follows is the first student guest post of the year, exactly as written:
we did are science project about fishes then we did physical education walking for 15 minutes.
Okay, so I definitely need to work with my class on adding more substance to their writing! I am actually going to use this post as a jumping point for writing on Monday. We will work collaboratively to correct spelling, capitalisation, punctuation, and spacing. Then we will add more content. The goal will be to turn this run-on sentence into two full paragraphs.
Still, not bad for a first attempt at writing a blog! Thank you to the two boys who took a risk and volunteered to go first!
Happy weekend, everyone! And happy National Bow Tie Day! (Sorry, Dr. Owen, for not wearing orange; I guess I need to find an orange bow tie!)
(I know, I know, I haven’t updated all week. The first full week of school has been super busy but, on top of that, I’ve had my mother-in-law’s third degree black belt testing and graduation–she passed!–and my wife hasn’t been feeling well so I’ve been taking care of her plus I started my graduate classes this week. So I’ve had to prioritise what I do and, at least for this week, writing a blog post has not been as important as family and classes. I will make an effort to post more regularly in the coming weeks. I am also going to resurrect an old practice and allow my students to write a blog post each Friday during Read, Write, Think!, which is what I call our weekly preferred activity time. All of which is really neither here nor there in terms of the purpose of this actual post.)
This past summer, I had the opportunity to participate in a district workshop entitled “For the Love of Literacy.” Once a week for several weeks, I gathered with elementary teachers from across grade levels throughout the district and looked closely at the tools, resources, and assessments we use when teaching our students to be literate. We explored the Continuum of Learning associated with Irene C. Fountas & Gay Su Pinnell’s Benchmark Assessment System. We delved deeply into the Daily 5 and CAFE frameworks developed by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser (the “2 Sisters”). We looked into the Writing Workshop curriculum written by Lucy Calkins back in the 1980s and 1990s but recently updated to reflect the targets established by the Common Core State Standards. And we talked about literacy: what it is, why it is important, and different ways to teach it.
During this intense study of best practices in literacy instruction, I found myself thinking about what I can do to provide quality experiences for my students and their learning buddies who are in kindergarten this year. When Miss C and I first started collaborating, her students were second graders. Then she taught first grade for three years. Year five of this collaboration is seeing her with a kindergarten class now, which has forced us to shift what we do and how we do it yet again. One idea that came to me was the use of readers theatres.
I, personally, have disliked readers theatres since I was a teenager and was forced to do one for a church activity. I thought the script was bad, the story weak, and the characters boring. And I never looked back.
Until this summer.
I started thinking about what we could do, and then I learned that my students would be doing Dance & Drama during their first six-week rotation of fine arts. The fine arts teachers are always looking for ways to infuse arts into the classroom and I realised that readers theatres would be a perfect opportunity. I talked to Mrs. T about it and she was excited. We met, we planned, and we began implementing today.
She came down to our room this afternoon during our literacy block and introduced the differences between plays and readers theatres. Then we had the students divide up into groups of three, four, or five and gave each group a script to read. The students took turns with the different roles, experimenting with voice and helping each other with unusual vocabulary and new ideas. (One group of boys read a script for a retelling of Chicken Little and declared it to be inappropriate for kindergarteners because, in a shocking twist, all of the characters died!) We worked on this for about half an hour but I had the distinct impression I could have let the students keep going until the end of the day and they wouldn’t have minded in the least!
We are going to read the scripts again tomorrow and then the students will be performing for their classmates on Monday. Then we are going to select books that are of high interest to our kindergarten friends and each group will write a readers theatre script based on the story. Then they will perform for the younger students and we will record them so that Miss C can share with her class again. (I will also be posting the videos online through a private link so that we can share with families.)
I am really excited about this project and so far get the impression that my students are excited about it, too!
Apologies for not writing anything last Friday. As soon as I got done working with students for the day I was asked to set up Chromebook carts for three teachers in our building. Then I had to leave for a wedding rehearsal and dinner (my wife’s best friend got married on Saturday). By the time we got home it was late and I was exhausted and I simply collapsed in my bed. I fully expected to get a post written on Saturday but the aforementioned wedding took up the whole day, then we went to Indianapolis on Sunday. So if you are an avid reader, my sincerest apologies. I promise I was doing things that were valuable and worthwhile!
Today was our first Monday, which means it was the start of the first full week of school. After three days of setting expectations, establishing norms, and rehearsing procedures, we were ready to just jump right into things! We started the day with our traditional journal writing, followed by a morning meeting in which students got to share with one another what they did over the weekend.
Then it was time for a Big Thing: our first Major Assessment of the Year. I am planning on using a workshop model for math this year with lots of small group instruction instead of the traditional whole-class lecture format. In order to organise my students into groups, however, I need to know what they know! So I used a useful assessment tool I found a couple of years ago. It is a fourth grade baseline assessment. It starts off with a review of third grade standards, such as basic addition, subtraction, and multiplication facts, and then transitions to more and more difficult concepts, including dividing with and without remainders and adding and subtracting money. It is not an assessment of all fourth grade learning standards, however. It is simply a tool to establish where students are at. My wonderful aide, Ms.K, helped me grade all of them so that I can look over the data this evening and create my first math groups.
I’m excited to try this new format for teaching math this year and I hope that my students find it worthwhile, too!
Last May I received an email from my district’s director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment regarding an educational technology conference being hosted by the Champaign Unit 4 school district. Unit 4 was seeking presenters for their conference. I decided to take a risk and offer to present on Kahoot! in the classroom. My presentation proposal was accepted, which is why I was up at 6 am on a Saturday a week and a half before school starts.
I had seven teachers attend my session, including a college professor and three school librarians! I was initially a little worried about presenting to teachers outside my district (the first time I’ve ever done that), but I had a great group and, I hope, they found that the time spent with me was worthwhile. After my session, I was able to go to other sessions.
The first session I attended was on using Padlet, a free online bulletin board program. I got to play around with it a little and am thinking about ways I can use it with my students, with parents, with coworkers, and for my own personal use.
The second session was a focus on promoting digital citizenship. I was pleased to learn that Common Sense Media’s curriculum was highly recommended, as that is the program I started using with my class last year. The presenter also shared advice on being very clear with expectations for students and families.
My last session of the day was learning about Gamestar Mechanic, which is a free program that helps students learn about computer coding. I don’t know if I will use it with my entire class, but I will definitely have this as an enrichment option for students who are interested in trying it out.
After lunch, we had time to work with others at the conference to explore further, play around, and network with one another. I enjoy conferences that have the work time built into them, especially when there is so much being shared in such a short period of time! As I continue to integrate technology into my classroom, I love being able to talk with fellow techy teachers to share ideas and learn what’s working and what’s not!