D5-Chapter 3

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Chapter 3 will be hosted by Melissa from Mrs. Freshwater’s Class Blog. I included the image came from her site because it’s so colorful! Make sure to click on her link to gather her teacher made goodies!  After announcing Mel’s family’s tragedy yesterday, I read today that she managed to post her comments about Ch. 2 and included her nephew as a tribute to his life. Click above to read her post, if you don’t follow her directly.

I’m going back to the Q & A Style that I used in Chapter 1 because it helped me stay concise  and to the point. I have a tendency to babble and go on and on, so this way I am sure to make it less boring for you.

Now here are this week’s framing questions:

1. What “rings true for you” in this chapter?

This chapter was filled with many of the same things I’m already doing in my class as far as routines go. I have our morning meetings where I debrief  the students on home learning, or other announcements, but not an official gathering place. I have a nice library available at all times for my students, but due to my constant classroom moving (yes, I do move classrooms within one school year) I only bring books that I have pre-selected according to the season, or holiday within a particular month, e.g., African-American History Month. But even if I had more books available that allowed for choice and a good fit, I’m worried that the students will change books before finishing the ones in their boxes. Someone on another blog suggested to have a schedule where the students could trade with other kids but only on specific days. I liked that suggestion and I think I can work on establishing my own rules about trading and setting up boxes for them.

I recently started using anchor charts with my students and I’ve seen the difference it makes. I had plenty of store bought posters that were colorful and quite pretty, but nothing can impact a brain like an anchor chart created with the students and their own ideas. Now relating to muscle memory, in the past I’ve had to re-teach routines when my class seems to need a reminder.  Nothing is truer than that mentioned regarding Michael Grinder’s research about storing memory in the different memory systems of our brains.. With D5 however, it’s going to take explicit modeling and practicing to ensure the functionality of the literacy block, so I will plan the first few weeks accordingly. I already my signal and check in system established, but I think I like the chimes idea better, so I’ll be shopping for those soon! I do have a huge garden gong, but that would rattle my nerves… 😀

2. How are your students progressing with picking appropriate books?

Since I haven’t done D5 yet, I can only say that I haven’t been particularly happy in how my students utilize my library. Some students pick a book because of the cover or pictures, but find that they’re too easy or too hard for them. I accept responsibility for not having the books labeled by lexile levels, so I’ll do that this summer. However, my biggest pet peeve is the ones that get a book, sit down only to stand up when they notice a buddy at the library. Obviously, it wasn’t necessarily a “bad fit” situation, it was more of an opportunity for them to talk to a buddy or just get up and goof off. So I need to really work on selecting appropriate titles, collect several copies of the same books and make better use of both my school and public libraries.

3. What (if anything) could help improve the processes from this chapter in your classroom?

I think I answered this question in the answers given above. I certainly need to make myself some anchor chart cheat-cheats to make sure that as we create them together, I’m sure to  include the specific tasks that they (students) must learn in order for D5 to work effectively.

Well that’s it for now folks! I’m going to go blog hopping again and see what other teachers are saying about Ch. 3. I admit that I’m a bit ruffled that my blog with WordPress is keeping me from adding a Linky to have other blogs listed on my page, but for now this one is FREE! If you want to join at any time just click on the above bloggers’ links and hook up that way!

Until Chapter 4,

Mrs. P

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Sad News…

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While checking in on our book study hostess today I read a very sad post by Mel from Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations. It turns out that she was apologizing for not posting anything relating to Chapter 2 this week due to a sudden death in her family. I actually teared up as I read about the loss of her 29 year nephew on Father’s Day. I could not help but leave a short reply to encourage her during this time, but I am in awe of how she found the strength to keep her followers informed. Please join me and all the fellow bloggers in keeping her and her family in our thoughts and prayers.

To Mel and her Family:

Praying for friends to comfort you, faith to uphold you, and loving memories to help you smile again.

Anonymous

D5- Chapter 2

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This on-line book study is really interesting! I have met two teachers who by their accounts, are not teacher-bloggers, but rather “are teachers that just happen to also blog” and have enjoyed the camaraderie in our on-line exchanges. I think this is going to be fun! So here goes with Chapter 2:

Below are the questions for Ch. 2 featured on Mel’s site, “Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations” who is hosting the book study, but I also “hopped over to Nicole’s Blog “Teaching with Style”  and read her thoughts. So I decided to approach this chapter a little differently. What I liked about Nicole’s answers was the manner that she used  to respond to the questions. She had a bit more of a reflective tone instead of  the Q & A style that most of the bloggers were using. This actually gave me a different perspective, so I’m going to answer the questions, but I’m going to try to be more reflective in the process.

1. What goals do you have for your classroom as you work to implement the principles and foundations of the Daily 5 discussed in Chapter 2? What support do you need to do this?

2. What stands out as the most significant aspects of this chapter?

3. How do the foundational principles of the Daily 5 structure (trust, choice, community, sense of urgency, and stamina), align with your beliefs that support your teaching strategies and the decisions that you make about student learning?

I whole-heartedly believe that the relationship that I try to build with my students is one that includes an understanding that they can trust me and I can trust them.  I begin building trust by giving them opportunities to demonstrate that they can be trusted. For example, I love giving my students “jobs” in the classroom, which allows for them to learn about responsibility and keeps me free from those time-consuming, but “necessary”clerical duties. For example, I don’t have to worry about turning on our computers, projector, opening windows, shutting off and on the lights, answering our class phone, etc. I have helpers that rotate these jobs and they were quite proficient at it. So in this small way, my students know that I trust them to do their jobs without playing around. However, there are times that they aren’t as responsible. For example, sometimes hands-on labs requiring collaboration doesn’t go so smoothly because some students get off task.  Sometimes I have to intervene and re-direct students so many times that I’m exhausted by the end of the activity.  The kind of TRUST the sisters are talking about is going to be a challenge for me next year, if I have a similar group of students.

Now as far as choice goes, this I already anticipate that will be easier in some ways. The key will be in the preparation. I must be careful to prepare activities that will not only give the students an opportunity to practice the desired skill, but also provide them with a purpose for doing the assignment. I like how the sisters summarized, “Purpose + Choice = Motivation” (pg.21).  I know that I will need to be very diligent and provide them with meaningful activities.  I am concerned though about differentiating for my SPED students. The challenge is going to be in how I will present these materials to the students. What if the students with more abilities choose easier tasks or if the SPED students find the work too difficult?  Another concern that I have is whether I will have the time to do all  D5 activities daily. Hmm? Time is limited, schedules are usually not in my favor.

I have fostered a sense of belonging in my class and that has allowed my students to feel that they are part of something BIG. My class theme is related to Rock & Roll (No I’m not a Dead Head) and I tell my kids that “We Rock!” From the beginning of the year I stress the importance of being finely tuned and how everyone has a big job in being part of our band. I know it’s cheeeeessssyyy…but they buy in every year! This type of brain washing has helped me achieve a wonderful sense of community with my students. They know that everyone has an effect in the band and they have to be “with it” at all times.  They also know that I will not allow anyone, not even another band member, say or do hurtful things to another band member. My only expectations of them is to remember to be kind and accepting of each other as individuals.

While reading “Frindle” this year, I had provided the class with group activities that required them to do “Word Work” using the infamous dictionary,  allowing me an opportunity to work with small groups.  Most of my students  balked at the idea at first, but in no time they actually were able to do the work  and complete the assignments by the end of each week. This really proved to me that they understood that it was ALL business. This weekly deadline provided them the urgency to complete their work.  In fact, what better way to understand the sense of urgency if not by reminding them of a ticking clock to avoid the ZERO they would earn if it was not completed? However, what the sisters mean by sense of urgency is related to the understanding that what one is doing is important for oneself. It means that the time we put into something has enormous value and implications for our future. This awareness comes from intrinsic motivation and cannot be driven out of a student by a teacher, but must be carefully fostered.

Now STAMINA, Oh! How I dislike this word! It reminds me of the high stakes testing preparation we put our students through every year!!!! ARGH!!! The way presented in the book and video on the website for that matter is different from what I just described and it makes sense. After all, we can’t run a marathon if we can’t first run around the block! So I get it…I’ll start slow and increase more time accordingly; no real worries here. HOWEVER, staying out-of-the-way? That will be a dream come true! If I lived in a perfect world where students understood the importance of learning and did everything they needed to do because it was important for them to learn, and everyone reminded everybody to behave and not interrupt the learning process, then and only then, will I be able to STAY OUT OF THEIR WAY. Now I know I’m sounding a bit sarcastic here, but some of my SPED students require what we (SPED teachers) call, “proximity control.” Many of these students still have not developed their locus of control and depend on supervision. So this is certainly an area that I will need to learn to develop while my students are learning to be more autonomous.

Feel free to comment or reply to my reflective answers. It is in the interchange of other teachers that I develop new perspectives and boy do I need some new ones!

Mrs. P


The Daily Five Book Study 2012

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I received my books last night and immediately got out my orange highlighter to get started. At first I thought it would require some extra concentration (The Bachelorette Show was on) but I was totally enthralled. I’m going to actually participate in several book studies this summer because I do not have my assignment for next year and I might as well view the D5 from several angles. So here are my thoughts based on the questions prepared by Mel from Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations Blog Hop:

1. On pages 4-6, the authors present two different pictures of their classrooms. In thinking about and reflecting on your own practice, how would you characterize your literacy block? Does it look more like the first or second scenario, or is it somewhere in between? How will you change it?

Yikes! I’ve certainly have been in those two classrooms and somewhere in between. This last year, I was particularly challenged because I was placed in an intervention class. I worked with students with varying exceptionalities as well as students who had scored in the lowest 25% of their peers in State Mandated Tests the year before. Knowing that I needed to remediate and motivate my students, I tried to do many cooperative learning activities in which the students could benefit from learning from each other, be actively engaged in lessons and allow me flex time to work with small groups. However, the activities were usually cut short because of a behavior problem or simply because my students did not have a role model in their groups that could guide their activities. I really like the way Gail and Joan have dilineated exactly what the first 20 days of my curriculum will look like in order for me to train and re-train the students explicitly.

2. The typical teacher is very busy having students do lots of different activities. How is what you are having students do now in your classroom creating quality readers and writers?

I taught fourth grade this year and writing was emphasized because of the Florida Writes Test. We were given a packet filled with released prompts to help the students learn to distinguish between writing narrative or expository essays. This was probably better for the students if we had given them a preview in the 3rd grade and had them use the packet during the summer. I had to start from SCRATCH. My students could not tell me what a subject or predicate was, nor did they even write using complete sentences. Needless to say, many could not spell or remember to capitalize and punctuate.

So it took some DRASTIC measures and I invested in a few books using the Four Square Writing Method. We did nothing but this for the entire first quarter and it proved very effective for my students. We eventually moved to less restricted writing and taught my students to write with the purpose of sharing what they write with each other. Another blogger, Steph, from Teaching in Room 6, helped me teach my students to use T.A.G. Writing and that was also successful. The results in Florida were dismal over all, but my students performed as well as (or as poorly, if you see the glass half empty) as the students in the general ed and gifted students in my school! NOT TOO SHABBY!

3. What sets the Daily 5 structure apart from what you are doing in your classroom?

Simply stated in one word, “autonomy.” I’m still a skeptic considering the dynamics of the population I work with.

That just about sums it all for now. Feel free to leave a comment or two if you have any ideas you want to share about this first Chapter.

Mrs. P

And so it begins…

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As I embark on this new project, I cannot help but feel a bit nervous about how much of my thoughts I want to publish. This little blog is to be a compilation of rants and raves that I have about learning to become a better teacher. Some things will be serious, others, just plain stupid. I just want to learn a little about blogging and at the same time, use the summer break  to do something that I’ve never done before.  So here it goes…no reason, no rhyme, just a girl with a computer and a big imagination.

First things at hand- I have just completed my fourth year as a beginning teacher. Yes, I said, “beginning teacher.” I have been stuck in a vortex of a bad economy and hiring freezes in my hometown school district. And although I feel quite competent as an educator, I can’t help but feel that I haven’t been given a real chance to hone my craft. I have taught every grade at my K-8 center with the exception of kindergarten and second grade. I have taught in a general education setting, in a special education setting, as well as in an inclusion setting.  I even taught a small group of “Gifted” students Earth and Space Science (thankfully, only a few weeks).  I have learned about the curriculums in each grade and the standards required for each grade by the state. I’ve learned to use electronic grade books, plan and develop IEP’s and suffered through the protocols that I was to have learned  by osmosis.  I have had to hold my head up high many times while walking through the hallways passing the veteran teachers,  feeling like I was not “good enough” to be fully entitled to a contract. I have been discouraged by peers and mocked by friends because all I want to do is share the love of learning with a child. Is that right? NO! Is it all true? Probably not. Is it how I feel many, many times? Yes.

Even still, I know that as my emotions play a big role in my perceptions of the circumstances, I have learned so much about teaching. I have grown and developed a deeper understanding of pedagogy and have tweaked my philosophical perspectives. There have been days in the past four that I have seen a twinkle in a child’s eye, other days that I’ve had the privilege to wipe a tear and many, I mean MANY OTHER MOMENTS, that I have received the affirmation that being a teacher is EXACTLY what I should be doing. For those reasons (and many more) I will hold on and hope that one day I will be offered that first year contract and can finally call myself, “Queen of my Class.”

Mrs. P