Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Slice of Life -- The Power of Moments

I wrote a blog post last August about our "failed" fly fishing trip to Vermont. I decided that I wasn't going to let one big expectation for this school year determine whether or not it was a good year. I made the choice to capture one shining moment every day, all year long. I bought myself a little purple journal, and every day I "caught a fish." What a gift I've given myself! Moments that would have been lost in the swift current of the flow of time are saved there for me to look back on and remember. It was a great year, and I lived it one day at a time.

My students and I captured moments every week when we created our "Top Ten" for the weekly newsletter I sent to parents. I have those newsletters archived on my class website.

On Tuesday, in the silence after we clapped the fifth graders out of the building and cheered the buses out of the parking lot, I wrote this Top 10 for the school year:

10  Our Friday routines (Poetry Friday, Top 10 and newsletter, blogging, Genius Hour), including "LUNCH!" and the laughter that brought us every week.

9  The list of read alouds on the closet door. We shared so many great books, and spent an hour finishing our final read aloud on the last day of school.

8  Our "words to live by." I loved that wall full of inspiration.

7  One Little Word. I hope the students will choose another word to live by each January. One word is so much better than a whole list of failed resolutions.

6  Our weird math schedule. At first it was so awkward to have 10 more minutes of math after related arts. But with time and flexibility, we worked that 10 minutes for all it was worth. I need to remember not to get hung up on things that don't work out the way I planned. I need to be flexible and creative and make the most of what I'm given!

5  Book clubs. The conversations and learning were priceless.

4  Open-ended ("rich") math problems. My learning curve for math instruction went steeply up at the end of the year when I started designing my own math problems, rather than finding them online. I can't wait to continue improving my math instruction next year!

3  Choice in writing workshop. The writing the students did at the end of the year, when they could choose their genre and topic, was phenomenal. I need to figure out how to build choice time into writing workshop throughout the year in between our mandated units of study.

2  Genius Hour. What a grand experiment this was! I think most of the students would put it at #1 in their own Top 10 for 5th grade. It was one of the best risks I've ever taken.

1  My class. It took longer than usual for this class to gel as a community, but perhaps it was because that gel didn't come easily or early that it made it so much sweeter when it finally happened. This group was filled with such an amazing collection of smart, funny, quirky, sensitive, creative, helpful, talented, honest, enthusiastic...characters. I am a better person for having spent the year with them.


  1. One, I love your entire list. Two, I'm going to share the idea to "clap" the fifth graders out of the building with my principal. What a cool way to send them on!

  2. What a great post, Mary Lee. I like all your top 10, but number 6 especially speaks to me. Thanks for sharing, and happy summer!

  3. I am interested in hearing more about your Friday traditions. Is your class website public? If not, could you screenshot some of the pages (blurring any identifying information about students) and share here?

  4. I love the idea of doing a top 10 every week. I'm sure that's easier when you have a single class all day, but I hope to remember next year to capture moments each week. Thanks for sharing. Sounds like you had a great year.

  5. I'm so excited to learn side by side this summer especially your enthusiasm for math rich problems.

  6. What a list! Finding choice in writing is critical. We are thinking a lot about how to show kids the connections between units/genres/structures so they can focus on what they love in each study. Hope you reflect on genius hour this summer and share how it will evolve next year.

    Clare and Tammy

  7. There's not one thing on this list that I don't want us to do at my school. Thank you for putting this together so I can share it! I love it!

  8. This is a magnificent list! It's wonderful to keep track of the "fish" you caught so you can rejoice in them later.

  9. So many ideas packed into this post. I am going to incorporate more of these things into next year. I would add that our blogging time together was rich.


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