Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Learning About Blogging!

We are getting ready to start our blogs at Kidblogs this week. These blogs will be closed to our classroom as students learn the power of blogging and connecting with others through writing.  This week, we'll spend much of our writing workshop time learning about blogging.


Learning to Study
One of my goals for the first six weeks of school is learning the power of study and mentor texts as writers. During these first six weeks, I want my students to learn to live their lives as writers, noticing all they can. And I also want them to begin to learn the power of mentors.  Studying quality texts and thinking "I'd like to do that in my writing." will be important throughout the year.  Our conversations this week will build on the bits we've already talked about in the area of study and mentor texts.

At the beginning of the week, we'll take a look at some blogs. We'll talk about the following questions:

What is a blog?
What is a blog post?
What is possible in a blog posts?
What makes an effective blog post?
How is this blogger unique?
What is the focus of this person's blog?
What can we learn from this blogger?

We'll take a look at a variety of blogs and blog posts written by kid bloggers. Some blogs we'll look at will be:
Behind the Scenes of the Cooperstown Bat Factory
DIY Locker Door
5 Interesting Facts about Electric Eels
Sunny Days
Baseball with Matt Blog
Tissue Flower Kit
This Kid Reviews Books
Lil Dog Whisperer

(I've found some of these on Blogs By Kids, which is a great resource for teachers looking for blog posts by kids.)


Paper Blogging
After some study, we'll do some practice.  I didn't buy into practice until I read Lee Kolbert's post on Paper Blogging and Learning to Comment a few years ago. I've followed her thinking for the past few years and it's led to some great blogging. We'll take a few days creating paper blog posts and we'll comment on each with sticky notes. This will take a few days but I've found that after this, kids are ready to blog and anxious to share their writing in a digital space!

Learning to Comment
Before we comment on the paper blogs, we'll watch this video by Mrs. Yolis's 3rd grade class. I have used it for a few years and it is a great conversation starter about good commenting.



Of course, we'll continue to build on this initial conversation but I know that commenting is as important as posting so I want kids to see what's possible in a comment. This video is part of a blog post on Mrs. Yolis's Classroom Blog: How to Compose a Quality Comment.

Moving Forward
We'll continue to study mentor blogs throughout the year as an integrated part of our writing. We'll look at classroom blogs as we work together to tell our classroom story.  We'll look at blog series such as Celebrate This Week, Poetry Friday,  and It's Monday! What Are You Reading?. These will serve as invitations for students who want to focus on their blog writing more seriously.  (I'll show them two series that past students have created--Ben's Book Reviews and Time to Interview.  We'll talk about Blog challenges and blog plans. I might eventually share this blog schedule to start the conversation about the importance of planning as a writer.

I'm anxious to see where this group of students goes with blogging. I am always amazed and surprised by all that kids find to do in the digital world as writers and this first step is always an exciting one.

This post was cross posted to Click Here Next.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Math Monday: Padlet


Visit Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning for Math Monday link up!
(This post is cross posted at Click Here Next)

I don't remember where I saw Padlet used for math but I kept the idea in the back of my head.  This week,  I wanted to start embedding technology into our work across content as a natural part of the process. I didn't want to teach a lesson on Padlet or talk directly about the tool but I did want kids to begin to experience various tools could support thinking and learning.

So before school began, I started a padlet with the problem we'd be solving.  I didn't share it with students yet but, as students were working on a math problem, I bopped around as I always do, looking a student work and finding a variety of strategies. I decided to take photos of 4 students' work and add photos of each to the padlet. About 3-4 minutes before I gathered the class to share, I invited these 4 students to look at the padlet and to add their words to their work--what had they done to solve the problem. I had each child use a different computer so as the rest of the class gathered for share time, they could see the 4 students simultaneously adding to the padlet.  The talk was around math and the strategies each had used, but the power of the technology was evident.

Because we'd been talking about how we could learn from each other and how we might want to go back to a past problem to solve a new one, I wanted to make this something kids could easily go back to if they want to later in the year. I also thought it was a great opportunity to write a quick shared post on our class website. So we added our Padlet to the math section of our Weebly and wrote a quick blurb about the activity.  This hopefully gives students an anchor for talk at home about learning at school.

This was really simple and the addition of Padlet took no extra time.  The focus was still on math but Padlet helped us look at the possible strategies and to hold on to those in a way that we couldn't without technology.  By putting this on our class website, this resource can be accessed whenever a child thinks it might be helpful.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Celebrating Amy Ludwig VanDerwater!

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Will Clayton

Even though our blog birthday was on January 1, we are celebrating it all year! On our 8th Birthday, we decided to celebrate 2014 by celebrating others who inspire us every day. Each month, on the 1st (or so) of the month, we will celebrate a fellow blogger whose work has inspired us. We feel so lucky to be part of the blog world that we want to celebrate all that everyone gives us each day.

This month, we are celebrating teacher and poet, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater! Her blog, The Poem Farm, is an amazing poetry and writing instruction resource for teachers. On the "Find a Poem" page, Amy has all the poems on her blog indexed by topic and technique. There is also a link to her amazing A-Z Poem Dictionary Hike, her 2012 National Poetry Month poem-a-day project.

Amy shines a spotlight on teachers and students and the poetry work they are doing in the classroom. On her "Poetry Peek" page, you can visit the classrooms she has featured.

If you and/or your students keep writer's notebooks, you will want to check out Amy's other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks. In the introduction, Amy writes,
"Hello, nosy friends! This blog is written by many different notebook-keepers, highlighting pages from a variety of notebooks: paper, digital, napkin, any kind! Read here, and learn how students, authors, artists, teachers, and people of all types use notebooks to strengthen their thinking. After reading, you might wish to try something new in your own writing, drawing, thinking..."
Amy is the co-author of one of Lucy Calkins' Units of Study writing guides, and is in the midst of a beautiful swan dive into the crystal blue water of children's book authoring, with one published (Forest Has a Song) and FIVE more forthcoming.

If you read Amy's blog or follow her on FaceBook, you know that besides being a poet, writer, and teacher, she is mother of three, wife of a science teacher, and very much the farm girl of her blog's Poem FARM name. And you know that one of her (and her family's) passions is rescuing and placing orphaned cats and kittens. Although it veers a bit from our typical donation to a literacy or child-based organization, it just feels right to donate this month, in Amy's honor, to Colony Cats, a local organization that rescues cats as well as practicing TNR (trap, neuter, release) to support the feral cat colonies in the Columbus area. The cat who generously lets AJ and me share his house is a former Colony Cats rescue cat. He gave a twitch of his tail as the sign of his approval of this donation.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Poetry Friday -- Retro Post


I'M YOUR MOM

I'm your mom when you're in school.
I mom you sharply when you're cruel.
I mom you gently when you're hurt.
I mom the buttons on your shirt!

(I mom the music teacher's tie.)
I always mom you when you cry.
(I mom the plants on the windowsill.)
I mom you when you're feeling ill.

I'll never be your mom at home.
I'll never see what you'll become.
I'll never tuck you into bed,
Never hold your feverish head.

But I'm your mom when you're in school
And I'll mom you into shape with rules
Because I love you like you're mine...
I hope your real mom doesn't mind!

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2011


This poem first appeared on the blog in April of 2011, but besides linking to it in a post this week, and sharing it with my current students, I have connected with several students from former classes this week, and my heart is filled with joy that they carry good memories of being in my 5th grade class. As I set out on the year's journey with a group who won't be sharing memories or stories of influence for 7+ years, it's good to be hearing from these former students!

Jone has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Check it Out.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

I May Never Actually Fancy Up This Chart



These are our Lessons From Cup Stacking, and they have turned out to be such important big ideas that I find myself referring back to this chart on a daily basis, at some point or another.

I keep saying that I'm going to fancy this chart up when I get time, but I actually like its organic roughness so much that I might never get the time! Maybe I'll give it a title, but that might be all.

The cup stacking challenge was given to "tribes" on the first day. They had a stack of six styrofoam cups and the only tool they could use to make a pyramid was a rubber band that had four strings tied to it. They couldn't touch the cups. They couldn't touch the rubber band. They could only touch the strings.

After every group was successful, we talked about what had happened.

The group that finished first automatically gave themselves a new challenge. We decided that would be the right thing to do ANY time you finished early.

We talked about how to handle disagreements. There were lots of strategies: go with the majority, try everybody's idea, really listen to each other, and talk it out calmly. If only our world leaders would keep these strategies handy!

We talked about the importance of struggle, and when struggle is a good thing. I assured them that I am here to make sure that their struggles don't overwhelm them.

We listed lots of different ways to name "keep trying."

They have the option to modify a task I give them. In this case, one group chose a new place to work, but we talked about other ways they could modify a task, but still do what they were being asked to do. That might mean they do things in a different order, use different materials, or accomplish the same outcome in a way I haven't even thought of. I want my students to be active participants, always thinking of the best way...for them. And, of course, I have the option to intervene and modify their task for them. I had to do that for the last group to finish. They were so close and they knocked one of their last cups down. I picked it up and put it back so they could put the last cup in place. For the geography challenge, I asked for "focus groups," but the IS was in to support a few kids, so I allowed for a homogenous group of four instead of a mixed group of 3. This point is helping me model flexibility.

We ended with some general big ideas for group work in our classroom: BE DEPENDABLE, use TEAMWORK, and have FUN! I assured them that even though I planned to challenge them to work really hard this year, I would always do my best to try to make the work fun!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Learning is Social

free Public Domain image from pixabay

I started with the big idea: Learning is Social. With that in mind, I knew I would want my students to work in all different kinds of groupings. In the past, saying, "Get together in groups" took valuable time away from the instruction or task, and instead of making all feel included, often resulted in kids being left out until grudgingly accepted into a group, usually with me facilitating.

This year I decided to be more explicit about what I wanted from groups. As I introduced the various groupings in the first days of school, I gave team-building or curriculum-based tasks to the groups to complete. So they practiced making the groups AND working in them.

The biggest group is the whole class. Our family. You don't get to choose your family; you're born into it and you have to make the best of it, even when some family members get on your nerves. I'm the "mom" of our family -- a single mom with a LOT of kids! (It was fun to share my poem "I'm Your Mom" at this point.) We will defend our family members fiercely. We've got each others' backs.

The next group is your "tribe" -- the people with whom you feel most comfortable. I want my kids to know that it's natural, and in my room, acceptable, to want to work with your friends sometimes. Don't we all?

Another grouping is "focus groups." In market research, focus groups are made up of a wide range of consumers so that the researchers can get the most valid results. Our "focus groups" are a mixture of boys and girls, tribe members and non-tribe members.

The smallest unit is partners. Sometimes your partner is a tribe member, and sometimes I ask for mixed gender partnerships. Partners sit knee-to-knee to talk, and side-by-side to look together at a book or the work they are doing.

When we practiced making groups, the one rule was that the groups weren't formed until everyone had been included. We practiced asking to join a group, and we practiced inviting someone to join in.

Yesterday, when it was time to form focus groups for a geography challenge, I was amazed (pleased, relieved) to see how quickly the groups were formed and how no one had to invite themselves into a group -- groups invited singles cheerfully, not grudgingly. Mixed gender groups didn't feel weird or awkward because they are Focus Groups with many perspectives. Just about as quick as I could snap my fingers, the groups were made, and the geography challenge was on.

Life is good.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Questions for a Joyful, Kind and Reflective Classroom

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Over the summer I read a post by a teacher who asked her students in the morning class meeting what he/she was most looking forward to that day. I loved that question and the stage it set for each day in a classroom. I decided we'd use that in our morning meetings this school year.  As I continued to plan over the summer, I started to think about how all of our workshops have share times that could connect in some way. I wondered if we could connect learning across content with reflective questions that set the stage for joyful learning as well as reflection. With the help of Gretchen, our new literacy coach, I came up with a list of 10 questions to focus our conversations.  

I I wasn't sure how it would go but I created a sign for each question and posted the 10 questions in our meeting area. Before I even mentioned the question, kids were talking around them. They had noticed the questions and started thinking about them. So it has been easy to use these for general conversations and the kids have been amazing in the ways they are thinking about themselves in our classroom.  We use them throughout the day when we are gathered together for conversations.

I I have the questions posted and I plan to give them a copy of the questions on a single sheet for their notebooks.  These questions were a great way to kick off our school year and to help kids begin to think about what our year will be like. 

    What are you most looking forward to today as a   learner?

·         What do you have to celebrate today?

·         What did you learn about yourself as a learner today?

·         How were you kind today?

·        How did you get through something challenging today?

·        What do you understand today that you didn’t   understand before today?

·        What are you excited to share with someone today?

·        What did someone do to help you today?

·        How were you brave as a learner today?


·        How did your thinking change today?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Math Monday!




It's Math Monday!  Join Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning for the Math Monday link up!



The first few days of math are always so interesting as I listen into conversations.  On the third day of school, we used our math time to do a "Numbers About Me" project.  I've seen this often on Pinterest and blogs and wanted to make sure we started the year thinking about math in our world.  It was an interesting conversation as their eyes lit up each time they realized the things in their lives that involved numbers.  They were simple things but making the connection to math made for a good conversation. We combined this with self-portrait work and the kids had a great time creating themselves with their Numbers About Me information.

*Please note that the 3rd boy in the top row made himself wearing an "I Love Mrs. Sibberson" shirt. Hysterical.  Gotta love 3rd grade :-)


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Poetry Friday: So. Much. Joy.

by Hugh MacLeod at GapingVoid.com


’T IS so much joy! ’T is so much joy!
If I should fail, what poverty!
And yet, as poor as I
Have ventured all upon a throw;
Have gained! Yes! Hesitated so
This side the victory!

Life is but life, and death but death!
Bliss is but bliss, and breath but breath!
And if, indeed, I fail,
At least to know the worst is sweet.
Defeat means nothing but defeat,
No drearier can prevail!

And if I gain,—oh, gun at sea,
Oh, bells that in the steeples be,
At first repeat it slow!
For heaven is a different thing
Conjectured, and waked sudden in,
And might o’erwhelm me so!

by Emily Dickinson

From Bartleby.com (bibliographic record for the poem here)
You can see the poem in Emily's own handwriting here.


Lots of great conversations these first couple of days of school about the importance of struggle, of perseverance, patience, and practice. Growth mindset. We watched Kid President talk about inventing, and we read The Most Magnificent Thing. I think we're ready to dive into the hard work of fifth grade.

I splurged yesterday and bought a little purple Moleskine journal to keep track of my "trout of the day." We're two days in and I'm having a hard time picking one "trout." I'm thinking that bodes well for the year.


We've had a change in the Poetry Friday roundup this week. Irene is taking over for Robyn. Head over to Live Your Poem to leave your link.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Teaching With Heart



Teaching with Heart: Poetry that Speaks to the Courage to Teach
edited by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner
Jossey-Bass, 2014
review copy is my own, and will live on my shelf at school, ready to offer words of wisdom when I am in need

I have loved the first volume this duo edited, Teaching with Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teachfor 10 years. The poems and accompanying essays have buoyed me up and carried me forward.

This new volume already has five poems sticky-noted for sharing, and dozens of others that made me nod and smile. In times when we have to keep stuff like this in mind, it is good to have a place to go where our profession is valued, understood, and truly celebrated. This is a book I will turn to and thumb through many times throughout the school year, in good times and when I'm worn down and worn out.

Plus, how much fun is it to find my Poetry Month pal, Kevin Hodgson (Kevin's Meandering Mind, @dogtrax), right there on pages 18-20 in the section "Relentless Optimism" sharing "What Teachers Make" by Taylor Mali (who wrote the introduction to the book)?!?!

In his introduction, Mali writes about still getting a feeling of "imminence" every fall, even though it's been since 2000 that teaching was his day job. He continues,
"For years I couldn't figure out why as a poet I still felt this way. But it makes perfect sense. Because on a very basic level, being a poet and being a teacher are inextricably linked. Whether teaching or writing, what I really am doing is shepherding revelation. I am the midwife to epiphany."
Today is our first day day with students. Nothing could be better than approaching this day as "the midwife to epiphany."