Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Peek at My Week {10-27-13}

Welcome back to another addition of A Peek at My Week!  I don't know about you, but these weekly Peeks seem to come around so quickly!  Seriously, where does the time go?  (I've been told it has something to do with getting older, but I'm SURE that can't be it! :)
This week, we are starting to prepare for that dreaded time of year -- the state test.  Booo.....  It makes absolutely no sense to me why we give our test in the fall, versus in the spring, since the only thing it is really measuring is how much the kids forgot over the summer.  
But I digress...

I feel there is not much that can be done to prepare, aside from review how to fill in circles and erase completely.  I think over-practicing stresses the kids out even more and will backfire on you on test day.  

However, one area we can work on is the writing prompt.  Because I teach writing in a more unstructured writing workshop format, it is important that students get some practice writing to a prompt in a set amount of time (30 minutes).

So we will spend this week doing some controlled writing responses, but also looking at the writing samples from the DPI website that show actual samples of student writing and how it was scored.  By having the students reflect on what worked and what didn't in these samples, hopefully they can apply some of that to their writing.  Wish us luck!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Celebrating PUBLICation!!

This past week, my fourth graders celebrated the PUBLICation of their first writing products -- their mystery narratives.  It was such an exciting day, both for my student writers to see the fruits of their labors and for me to see the fruits of mine.

Publication is the final stage of the writing process.  It is the time where we take all of our hard work and make it PUBLIC, hence the 'public' in 'publication.'  This can be a risky time.  No one wants to put their hard work out there to bear criticism.  Yet if it's done right, it can be a time of great affirmation and celebration -- and also a great motivation to keep writing!

So this week, I'm going to share this motivation through the fabulous Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching's weekly linky party, Spark Student Motivation.

My 4th grade students have been working on their Mystery Narratives for the past three weeks.  We went through all of the stages of the writing process, but really focused most of our energy on revision.  When we were done and published, we celebrated by having a Publishing Party where we were able to read each other's books and leave "Raves from Readers" with our feedback.

Each student's mystery was bound into a book.

Students could visit the three 4th grade classrooms to Read & Rave about their fellow student writers' books.  Everyone had to Read & Rave about four books, but most students read more.  (Before we did this, we had a brief mini-lesson on how to leave positive feedback and discussed some sentence starters just to make sure we were all on the same page.)

It was SO COOL that even other staff members stopped by to Read & Rave! (I'll admit that students were MOST excited if a teacher had commented on their story.  I overheard one boy say "The librarian raved about my book.  It's like I'm a REAL AUTHOR now!!" to my ears!!  :)
After about 30 minutes, students returned to their home classroom to read their Raves and to have some punch and cookies.  As a teacher, this was one of the most exciting parts of the celebration because I could see the faces light up on the faces of all the students as they read the compliments on their writing.

So if you really want to MOTIVATE your student writers, give them a real audience and CELEBRATE their efforts!  Such fun!!

Speaking of fun, I hope you will come back tomorrow for my weekly linky party, A Peek at My Week, to let us in on some fun things you have planned for next week!  See you then!!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Quilting as Metaphor for Teaching

When Kara (now age 14) was born, I took up the hobby of quilting.

I did this for a few reasons...

1.  It was therapy for me.  I did some of my best thinking with fabric and needle in hand, the hum of the sewing machine drowning out screaming kids.  Or maybe it was that I COULDN'T think while quilting -- for fear that I would sew my finger to my fabric.  It's probably the second one -- quilting forced me to forget all things except the very moment at hand.

2.  It was a creative outlet.  Being a stay at home mom didn't allow for much creativity aside from which Thomas the Tank Engine layout Ryan would ask for assistance to create every day.  Let's we put the bridge after Cranky the Crane or before him today?

3.  I felt productive.  I could see the small pieces of fabric come together into a beautiful whole.  It felt good.  It made me proud.

4.  It was challenging.  I never shied away from a difficult pattern.  I taught myself how to quilt and hand applique. I could look at a pattern in a magazine and figure out how to piece the block.   I'm happy to say that I think I was pretty good at it.

Now that I have been teaching for six years, I'm sad to say that I don't do much quilting anymore.  Most nights, I am asleep on the sofa around 8:30 or my Puggle wants to sit in my lap which doesn't make it easy to stitch.  I find myself needing more instant gratification.  Some of my best quilts have taken me over a year to create and quite honestly, I just don't have that kind of time these days.

There are times when I find myself really missing my quilting.

And then I got to thinking...

The same things that drew me to quilting, also drew me to teaching.

1.  It is therapeutic.  Sure, there are some rough days.  Really rough.  But there are also lots of days when I leave and can't wait to come back the next day.  Thankfully, the good out weigh the bad.  Nothing feels better than hearing a student say "Ohhh...." when they finally "get it" or to hear the "YES!!" when they do well on something.

2.  It nurtures my creative side.  Creating for my classroom -- whether it be a unit of study or a poster -- brings out my inner child about to begin a project with a new box of crayons (the 64 pack with the sharpener on the back, of course!)  Ask my teammates -- if they need something "cutsiefied," they call me.

3.  I feel productive.  Flipping pages in my lesson plan book from week to week is not enough for me.  I also am constantly challenging myself with professional reading and with staying in touch with other professionals through blogging.

4.  It is hands-down the most challenging thing I've ever done.  Each student in my class is an individual with unique needs.  My goal is to reach every learner and give them what they need to be successful in our classroom and beyond into life.  I guess you could say that they are the fabric squares that fit into my larger quilt.  Sure, some are not quite even, some may even be raveling, but it is my job to work with them until I make them fit together into a thing of beauty.

And that, my friends, is what it's all about.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Peek at My Week {October 20, 2013}

Thank for stopping by to check out A Peek at My Week, my weekly linky party to share what you have going on this week.

This will be a busy week for me!

I am so excited for my students to publish their Mystery Narratives this week and we will celebrate with a Publication Party on Wednesday!  We have invited pretty much the whole school staff to stop by to read their mysteries and the kids are super excited.  I am truly impressed at how much work they have put into their stories and how well they turned out.  Not one student complained about having to revise their story -- twice -- because they could see it got better and better every time.  :)

Clip art from Krista Walden, Creative Clips

Then on Thursday we take our first field trip to Old World Wisconsin to learn about Wisconsin history.  This is a great field trip (it's only about 40 minutes away) for students to learn about life in the "old days" and to help build background knowledge.  The best part is that they get to have a tug-of-war with a bull.  {Hopefully, no one will end up in a mud puddle like past years.}  Unfortunately, the weather forecast calls for highs in the 40's....BRRRR! 
Historic Farms
Crossroads Village

How about you?  What do you have planned for the week?  Share some of your highlights with the rest of us and link up!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Monday Made It - Fall Love

Ahhh....Monday Made It, how I've missed you.

This linky party was the one reason I was a creative, crafting fool this summer.  Now, I look forward to the second Monday of every month to share and catch up on some craftiness.  Thanks to Tara at 4th Grade Frolics for holding this fun party!  Can't wait to see what everyone has been up to.  I could use some crafting inspiration...
Next to Christmas, Fall is my favorite season to decorate the house.  I thought I needed a new wreath for my kitchen door so I got some inspiration at the local Hobby Lobby and whipped up this beauty.
In my life before I became a teacher, quilting was my obsession.  I quilted all the time.  I don't have time for much quilting anymore, but I do enjoy the occasional small project.  I'm not a delayed gratification kind of gal, so it has to be finished quickly before I get bored with it and stuff it in a drawer.  :)  Here's a small table runner I made just in time for Halloween.  Love it!!
And finally, I am excited that my apple trees FINALLY decided to start bearing fruit this year.  It only took 10 years, a threat to cut them down, and a good whomping with a baseball bat to get them started.  (That thing with the baseball bat is a tip from my mother-in-law.  She said to whack the trunks a few times with a bat to put the trees into shock so they start to produce.  Crazy...but it works!  I can only imagine what my neighbors thought if they saw me!)

Anyways, I went out and fought off the bees today and grabbed a bucket of apples and made applesauce...a fall favorite!
I'm off to check out other homemade inspirations at 4th Grade Frolics!  Hope to see you there!!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Flash Sale!

Who doesn't love finding an unexpected SALE???

To celebrate 100,000 followers on Facebook, Teachers Pay Teachers is throwing a flash 10% sale!  I'm adding to the fun by putting my entire store on sale for an additional 15% through Monday.  Enter the code FB100K at checkout to earn these discounts!

Thanks to the fabulous Ms. Shuna P. from Pocket Full of Kinders for her super adorable button!

Now would be a great time to grab my most popular item -- Word Parts We Know -- to help your students master those helpful prefix and suffix word parts!
On SALE for $16.99 through Monday!
After you finish shopping, come back and tell us how you plan to use all of your new treasures by linking up with my Sunday A Peek at My Week linky party....just scroll down to my next post to read and link up!

A Peek at My Week {10-13-13)

I don't know about you, but I am FINALLY beginning to feel like I've found my groove this year!  We are on the 7th week of school so it's about time, isn't it?  I guess I forget how unsettling the beginning of the year can be when everyone is so well "trained" from the year before (myself included!).

Here's a peek at my upcoming week...

Writing:  We will be working on making the second revisions to our Mystery Narrative this week.  I really have to hand it to my kiddos, they have been rising to the challenge of revising their writing a few times.  This past week, I heard them talk about how they added onomatopoeia, a repeating line, or the Power of Three to their first revisions.  Music to a writing teacher's ears, I tell 'ya!

This week, we will be working on making sure we have engaging grabbers to get our reader's attention and that we have used dialogue correctly.  Mary at Fit to be Fourth had a great blog post about dialogue on her blog yesterday.
She recommends using the mentor text, The Wolf Who Cried Boy, for learning effective alternatives to the word "said."
The Wolf Who Cried Boy
Pen Pals:  I am so excited to partner up with Lisa from Grade 4 Buzz to be class pen pals this year!!  Last week we received the letters from her students and now we are writing back.  Let me tell you, the room was DEAD SILENT as my kiddos read their pen pal letters and began writing back!!  Talk about an authentic writing experience -- they took this job very seriously!!
Lisa was even so kind to send a long a book about Canada that her students had all signed for our class!
Looking forward to cultivating this international friendship!  :)

So now it's your turn to link up and give us a Peek at Your Week!

I hope you have a truly wonderful week!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Saturday Celebration!

I love to spend my early Saturday mornings hunkered down in my comfy chair, a cup of coffee at my side, and my iPad in hand as I catch up on my blog stalking.  Some of my greatest A-HA moments have come from tips, tricks, and tidbits I have learned from my fellow bloggers.  When I share an idea at school with one of my fellow teachers, it usually begins with "I found this great idea on a blog."

Can you relate?

One of the newer blogs I have been following is ruth ayres writes.  Ruth is a teacher, author, and writing coach from northern Indiana who always has something interesting on her blog.  If you are interested in becoming a better writing teacher, or becoming a writer yourself, Ruth's blog is a must-read.

Today, Ruth is launching a new linky party called Celebrate This Week.  She is inviting fellow bloggers to share a celebration or two from their past week.  I really love this idea so I decided to join her linky party.
If you have been following my blog, you may know that I am becoming more and more obsessed with writing instruction.  I am now teaching writing to all three of the fourth grade classes at my school and quite simply, I love it!  To be able to interact with young writers and help them cultivate a habit and confidence in writing is such a gift.

This past summer when I participated in the UW-Milwaukee Writing Project, I did my inquiry project on the importance of revising writing.  This year, I have been making solid efforts to teach my students that revising is one of the most important parts of writing and I feel that I am starting to make some headway!  (Celebrate!!)

This week, my 4th graders have been working on the first revision of their Mystery Narrative.  As they conferred together, it was so amazing to hear the advice they offered each other.  They took their job as a peer editor extremely seriously.  They shared questions that came to mind as they read, made solid suggestions, and complimented specific things they had seen each other do.  I couldn't have been happier!

My proudest moment was probably when I heard one of my students, who has struggled with writing, talk with his partner about ways he could add onomatopoeia to his story!

What celebrations can you share about your week?  I hope you will head over to Ruth's blog to share and read some others.

I hope you will come back tomorrow to share your ideas for your upcoming week with my Peek at My Week linky party.  (You can kind of think of it as planning for tomorrow's celebrations today!  :)

Have a great Saturday!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Choose Awesome!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how we were having some trouble with making good choices here in 4th grade.  We continue to really playing up the choice we all have to choose to be awesome or to choose to follow the crowd.  While it's certainly easier to follow the crowd, it is so much better to...
After showing the Kid President Pep Talk video, in which he reminds us all that "we were made to be awesome," my students wrote Awesome Poems and thought about what their "Awesome" is.  I took a picture of each student sharing their Awesome and I am going to put together an iMovie for us.

I encourage my students to always "Choose Awesome."  When they do, they get to proudly wear a sticker that says "I Chose to be Awesome Today!"  Their faces light up when they earn their sticker and get to place it on their Awesome chart at the end of the day.

It's still too early to say if our little awesome experiment is working and is improving behavior.  I do hear kids using the word more often and encouraging each other to make the Awesome Choice.  One of my boys even asked if he could give another student an Awesome sticker for helping him when he tripped in the hallway.

So I guess that is what it is all about....

Making life a little better for someone else by the choices we make.

The choice to help.

The choice to be kind.

The choice to encourage.

The choice to support each other.

That is what Awesome means to me.

How about you?

Did you do something Awesome today?