Friday, September 28, 2012

What I Am Reading Now!

One of the changes in the common core standards is going from persuasive writing to argument writing. It is more difficult to write and also to teach. These skills may be the most important ones teachers pass on to their students. That is why I am reading: Teaching Argument Writing by George Hillocks, Jr.

The book is advertised for grades 6-12, but I feel 4th and 5th grade teachers would gain from it, too. I've only begun reading, but already in the first three chapters it teaches simple arguments showing step-by-step how to teach students how to write and evaluate.

Anything that helps teachers teach students to problem solve, write arguments and support their claims---it gets my attention!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Interpretive Essay or Argument Writing

The Common Core State Standards have focused on three basic types of writing: narrative, informational, and argument. The interpretive essay/argument writing, is the next unit of study for many fifth graders. When I first saw this, I thought about how tough this would be for ten-eleven year olds. But if we break it down as it is done in A Curricular Plan For The Writing Workshop, Grade 5, it is manageable.

This month students will be writing two essays--one grounded in their lives and one in the lives of characters they have been reading about in literature--read alouds, independent reading, book clubs. To start this unit it will be easier for the children to write about an opinion and theory. They will dig deep to grow ideas about themselves. They might want to start by writing a list in their notebook: "I am the kind of person who..."

The students will choose a theory and write a thesis statement, for example: "I am the kind of person who cares about others." Taking the statement they will notice events and happenings that support or challenge that theory. Collecting these small stories can be done in their notebooks. This is where gathering evidence come into play. The stories, quotes, and observations will be the evidence to support their statement.

The organizing of these collections has to be done in a logical fashion. Perhaps, lessons on transitional phrases to show how each part supports their thesis statement will need to be done. Seeing what students are doing as they write, will drive your instruction.

They will need to learn how to use quotes, anecdotes and observations within the essay. It will take about two weeks to draft and revise this first essay. It will be rigorous work, but remember it will be approximating. You are teaching the writer...not the writing!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Writing for Readers

The unit of study for first grade in October is: Writing for Readers. This isn't a new unit, but the issue is to be sure it meets the rigor of the common core standards. They require that by the end of first grade, students are able to write narrative texts with a high level of proficiency. They should be able to use end punctuation and spell common words. These are what they need to be able to do at the END of the year...not in October. Right now they are learning!

Since students have been writing stories as they launch the writer's workshop, they will have a collection to sort through from their writing folders. As they sort, they will decide which are readable and which are not and have two piles. Now they need to decide how to move a story from the unreadable side to being readable.

The list of strategies used for this will differ from class to class. Some ideas are:
  • How to stretch words to hear more sounds
  • How to use the word wall to find words
  • How to use what you learned in Word Study
Another thing to be taught the first few weeks of this unit is to be focused on a small moment. The lessons for One day, One time, Once...will help with this focus. Those lessons have been done before, but it is important to do it early in the year so students have time to practice this.

When telling/writing a small moment story, staying on focus on that story is important. One way to do that is to tell the story across their fingers and then moving page to page. It might sound like this: "On this page I'll write..." and "On the next page I'll write..." They might want to sketch (not draw) it across the pages and then come back and add the words.

If students get more focused with the stories they write, their writing will get better!  Happy Writing!

Approximating Small Moments

Meron adding details to her book.
Next month in most kindergarten classes, the unit of study is going to be Approximating Small Moments. So far these children have been launching their writing workshop. This meant they were telling stories and listening to stories and doing some writing. Some of the writing might have been in journals. Some of it might have been on single sheets of paper. Still, they were learning that they could be authors, too.

Now it is time to bump up their writing and go to new levels. They will be writing a story over a day or two. They will be invited to choose books that have been stapled together and placed in a tray, basket or shelf. The books might be various sizes. They might be stapled on the side or on the top. Those are choices the little authors will make. But the biggest part is telling their stories.

Telling stories is an important part of kindergarten. As I have been working with Meron, four-years-old, she would tell me lots of stories. They would be about going to the zoo with her family. Or what her older brothers did at breakfast. Or how her older sister broke her arm. She is full of stories! This was a perfect set-up for me to get her to do some writing. I had a basket of various sizes of blank books that I made. She would choose a book, we would tell the story she decided to write. We would touch each page as we planned what it would say.

One day she wrote about how Lane, her brother, threw a tomato at a squirrel in the yard. It was a very funny story. Another time she wrote about how she and her little brother, Bamlaku, played house in a big refrigerator box. That was a very inventive story.

She knew right away what she wanted to write. We talked about each page of the story. The first page would say: "Meron and Bam play." The next page was to say: "Meron and Bam make a house."  The last page was: "Meron and Bam play with a big box."  At first, the last page didn't seem to fit the story, but after talking it over, she let me know that the big box was the house! She drew the pictures on each page along with an M for Meron and a B for Bam...labels!

Yes, she is approximating small moments! Happy Writing as  you start your next month's new unit of study!
Meron and Bam play with a big box.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Invite Others into the Discussion

As I have worked with groups of students learning to have purposeful discussions, I've noticed many times it's the same few students doing the talking. Last week as I did a read aloud, the teacher would say, "I keep seeing the same people talking. What do others think?" But no one commented or entered the discussions.

In Martha Heller-Winokur and Marcia Uretsky's book: Fourth Grade Readers, they suggest inviting others into the discussion. By talking to the group about being a strong speaker and listener and sharing the fact that it is important that everyone has a chance to share, hopefully all will soon feel welcome. They need to realize some have difficulty taking part in the discussion. The students all need to be aware of those who have not had a chance to talk and invite them to participate. They could simply call on someone and say: "What are you thinking?"

Give the students a chance to practice this by turning to a partner and say those words. Asking the class for other ways to say it might also help. When students invite others to join the discussion, it shows they care about their ideas. They need to realize this!

Using this strategy as you read a short story to the class, gives them a chance to actually try it out. Prompting individuals to invite others into the discussion may have to be done for awhile! This is not something that happens over night or in one session. It will take many reminders! So, what are YOU thinking?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fun Memoirs!

Next week is the last week in September. For many of you fifth grade teachers, that means you are wrapping up the unit of study in memoir. Students are finalizing their editing. They are deciding how to publish. Maybe there is even a celebration planned. Where ever you and your students are in this unit, I hope you are doing some reflecting.

As I was glancing over my writing journal this week, I was reminded of something I had started earlier in the year. At the end of each day's writing, I would summarize the day into a six-word-memoir. It is quite challenging, but fun. I began to think---if I was in the classroom, I would have the students do at least one of these to put with their Memoir Unit of Study.

Here are a few samples from the book: Not Quite What I Was Planning edited by Smith Magazine.
  • Cheese is the essence of life.---Mary Lynch
  • Was rebellious teen. Now raising one.--Michelle Ganon
  • I wouldn't change it a bit.---Ann Pacton
Here are a couple of mine:
  • Cold, windy day, sinus-y and tired.
  • Math isn't easy, but it's important.
Now you can try it! If you want to know more go to  Do some with your class and send them off to have some fun!
Happy Writing!
Happy Reading!
Happy Weekend!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Focus Lessons in Reading and Writing

Today I was thinking of the parts of the writing workshop in classrooms.  One of the important parts is the mini lesson or the focus lesson.  This is not the old 'teacher-talking-student-listening' maxi lesson.  It is the time to give a teaching point that students can learn from and possible use that day in their writing. I do say possibly. It is not a requirement. Sometimes, if I really want the student to try it to just get a feel for how to do it, I might challenge them to try it. I would even bribe them with, "...and if you try it, you can share today!"

 It is another Gramma Preschool day today. When Meron, my four-year-old grand daughter, comes, I have a plan...a schedule. For the reading part of our day, we will review the book we read last time, but we will also introduce a new read aloud book. Today's book is: In the Tall, Tall Grass by Denise Fleming. I chose this book because in science we are going to be going outside to look at sunflowers. This is a connection between science and reading. I also chose it for the pictures and word choice.

We will start the read aloud... focus lesson by talking about the author, illustrator and title. We will take a fast picture walk. As we do the walk, I will help her to notice the passing of time. It is never mentioned in words. At the beginning the sun is high in the sky and it ends with the fireflies blinking and moon rising above. This is a great book for the beginning reader, but it is also one that could be used for passing of time with the older writer, too. Picture books are wonderful treasures for all ages.

My challenge for Meron today will be to try that in her writing. I want to connect the writing time into the learning areas of reading and science and possibly math as we count sunflower seeds!

It will be important for me to remember to keep my focus lesson short, even though I will be incorporating a read aloud. This is one of the things teachers lessons are not maxi lessons!  Happy Reading!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Book Clubs For All Ages

Last night was special. I spent all afternoon cleaning and cooking. I had fun planning the events of the evening. At 5:50 it was all set and ready for company. It was the night of my book club.
My new reading space!
Not only would my friends get to see my new 'space' for the first time, but we would also talk about books! We are all teachers or retired teachers, so reading is very important to us. Our book this month was Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand the author of Seabiscuit. It was longer that usual and a nonfiction book. We all loved it It's one of those books that help the reader become a better person just by reading it. The discussion we had was emotional. A couple of us remembered our fathers and how they had been in World War the character in this biography. We all related stories about people we knew who had fought battles in their lives. We were sharing what helped us comprehend the book.

This is what we want students to be able to do. We want them to enhance their comprehension. Being part of a book club helps us do that. If you're not part of a book group, I would recommend it. Sometimes you might not have time to finish the book. Just hearing how the discussion goes helps to transfer real life strategies to the classroom, so I would say...Go Anyway!

Our book for next month is a new novel by Mitch Albom...The Time Keeper. All of us had read books by him, so we are excited to get started on this new one!  Happy Reading!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Comprehension Grows Up

Tuesday's Slice of Life connected to: Two Writing Teachers
I love the idea of comprehension growing up. Its so much better than becoming more rigorous or comprehension in the common core. This is the concept I worked with in a fifth grade class. I wanted to use comprehension in my read aloud/think aloud, but I wanted the students to go deeper. I know the strategies and so did the children. It's a good bunch of students and they've had wonderful teaching. Now, how to get them to a new level of thinking?

I decided our focus would be: "Using images that emanate from the emotions to understand more vividly, more deeply."  taken from Talk About Understanding  by Ellin Oliver Keene. For the read aloud, I would use One Green Apple by Eve Bunting. Its about a child in a new school who is from another country and doesn't speak English. The author puts the reader into another child's shoes. It was perfect for addressing emotions.

I started the lesson by discussing the title and cover of the book. We made predictions and asked questions. I read the book once just for enjoyment---for the story. When I was done, we did a turn-and-talk about their reactions to the story.

Next, it was time to go deeper. We briefly talked about comprehension and how we wanted to go deeper since they are now fifth graders...comprehension grows up. I gave them the challenge of looking for emotions in our illustrations, in inferences, in the reader's feelings. We briefly talked about what emotions were and listed some.

When I read this time, I would stop at preselected passages:
  • "I am tight inside myself."
  • "I understand. It's not that I am stupid. It is just that I'm lost in this new place."
  • "Beside me is a tree, shorter than the others, that doesn't seem to belong. It is small and alone, like me."
I would read again the text and ask what they thought. As we moved through the book, their discussions got deeper. They used the emotions to better understand the deeper meaning in the book.

When we were done, I asked them what lesson was there. After talking it over they had the message of how we all blend together with no ONE person standing out.  It felt good to leave them with a reading strategy of using emotions to understand more vividly, more deeply.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Setting Goals For Writing

This weekend I received an email from a friend, neighbor, and person whose room I am volunteering and doing research. She had all her data from the first of the year's writing prompt. She had used the new, more rigorous common core aligned continuum that her district had developed to evaluate the writing. She saw that her students needed more work. Where should she go? How should she approach it? These were some of the questions she was deliberating.

Since she is a friend and a neighbor, I hopped on my bike and rode over to her house on Sunday afternoon.  Yes, Sunday. AND it was her birthday! But, hey, she's a teacher and a professional, and she didn't want to waste any time. She wanted to be ready for Monday morning and have a plan of action!

We looked at her students' writing. We compared it to what they did on ISTEP. We looked at the various categories which were divided by traits. We talked about the individual students which she knew so well because she looped with them from fourth grade to fifth grade. She now has a plan. After several days of looking at what makes good writing, looking at their prompts and scores, looking at the ISTEP scores and prompts, they will set their own goals. Yes, she will sit beside them as they do this, but she is confident that they will be smart about what needs to be done.

Her next concern was how not to kill the wonderful spirit for writing that these fifth graders have. She didn't want them to shut down.  My advise was to talk to the students about the scores overall.  This isn't a pass/fail issue.  It isn't for a grade. It is a measure. For example, if you go to the doctor and have a high temperature, you didn't fail his test since it is above normal.  It just gave the doctor the information to know something is wrong and it needs to be worked on. That is the same with these scores. It is simply a measure of where there is a weakness. Now what are we going to do about it?

Have you taken time to look at your students' scores from last year...their prompt scores, their ISTEP scores? Have you had the students look at them and evaluate where they are as writers? Have THEY set goals for what needs to make them better writers? If not, this might be something you want to do together so you can set goals for their future writing.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Update from the Inside

Today I want to share someone else's blog. This was written on Sept. 12th by a teacher in Chicago. Hearing what those teachers are facing day after day makes our teaching day seem like an easy job. No matter what side you agree with, it still is the children who are being hurt. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of our fellow Chicago teachers and their students.  If you want to read more of this blog it is called: Coffee Fueled Musings

An Update from the Inside

I’m a day late for Slice of Life Tuesday but it’s been hard to find a time to sit down and gather my thoughts about the mess in Chicago right now. So I’ll just tell it like it is.
Today, after picketing in front of our school for four hours we were asked to drive to one of three high schools that have been slated for turn around and show our support. I marched with thousands of teachers through a neighborhood that would usually cause me to lock my doors and not get out of the car. It was over 90 degrees and with the sun bearing down the heat was oppressive. As I waddled along, holding my belly, I wept silently behind my sunglasses. Part of it was the stress of this entire situation, part of it my over emotional state as a pregnant woman, and part of it was the energy of the people, many of who probably aren’t used to having so much support right in their community. As we walked backed to the car I couldn’t help but notice how much garbage littered the streets, the group of suspicious men gathered in an empty lot, the shuttered and barred windows. I thought to myself how hard it must be to live here, be a child here, be expected to succeed here.
Every morning we stand out on the street. We are well fed and watered by supportive parents and community members. We are met with honks of encouragement from citizens and city workers. We are also greeted with angry faces, a negative comment, or a thumbs down. Although we always have children with us, some teacher kids and some students who have come to show their support, we are also subjected to occasional profanity and rude hand gestures. I have taken to looking above cars so that I miss this negativity.
The media war is intense. Our union leader, being a teacher herself, is not the best at dealing with the press which makes us look bad… often. I know she’s doing the best she can, but it needs to be better and I find myself apologizing for the union rhetoric and trying to explain the issues to everyone I meet. I go between feeling a great sense of pride in being able to stand up to the political machine and feeling like a pawn in somebody’s game. After three days I wonder what the hell is going on in that room and why they can’t come to an agreement. At night I dream of being back in my classroom with my students and everyday I go home and cry, then fall into bed exhausted. When I wake in the middle of the night I check my Facebook, my Twitter, the News for any sign that this will all end. But it never comes. In the morning I get up and do it all again.
Inside the walls of my school, behind the door of my classroom, when I was able to focus on the joy of teaching I found great meaning in my day. I found great purpose in being an urban educator. Now as I stand exposed on the street corner I begin to ponder bigger questions and issues. I begin to wonder if it’s better somewhere else and if Chicago is the right place for me anymore. If they even deserve me.
I desperately need to get back to my students to remind myself why this is all worth it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Reflection--A Good Thing

As I take Dave on his morning two-mile walk, I gaze around the neighborhood. Children coming out of homes, heading to their bus stop carrying backpacks and water bottles. Wearing earphones and eating last bites of breakfast. All of them ready to climb on that yellow bus rounding the corner, ready to face another day of learning.

With all the children on the bus, I unhook Dave's leash and set him free. Free to run ahead and sniff the dew-wet grass. Run ahead just far enough to still be able to hear my commands--sit, come, stay--if I need to use them.  We wander on down the street to home. He smells and sniffs trying to locate a rabbit track or hidden treat.

The sky is bright blue with only low, white clouds in the horizon.  The sun is already up shining bright, but the air is crisp and cool. My hoody over a t-shirt feels perfect for a fall day.

Such is the morning of a retired teacher.  I never had a chance to do this when I was in the classroom. It's too bad that a morning walk and then a written reflection isn't a requirement for teachers. A peaceful, quiet morning might be just what teachers need to start their busy, stress-filled day. 

Reflection is a powerful tool no matter when it is used.  May you have time to reflect on your teaching today!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Pure Writer's Workshop

The Twins
The towers,
The panic nagging,
The smell of death thick like fog,
The sound of screeching, trapped people,
The sirens blaring,
Relatives hoping...praying.
The place of death,
The scar is still there,
The sadness haunts
the wreckage.
5th grade
Yesterday, on the anniversary of 9-11, I was able to visit a fifth grade classroom in my hometown. When I got there they were just beginning the focus lesson in writing workshop. The unit of study this month is 'Discovering our own Writing Process'. Various lessons had been taught to help shape the writing no matter what genre the child was using.
As the students went off to write, I scanned the room and then sat next to a few students. Each student had their own agenda and was busily working. Hunter was drafting a picture book set in 1939 with a flashback to 1929. I chatted with him and offered a suggestion to help the reader know the main characters a little better. Ellie was revising her poem on rats. They would soon be getting rats for a science project. As she read her poem we realized she was using her senses to describe. She decided to add a few more lines about the senses to help the rhythm of the piece. Katie was working on her novel about a kidnapping.
"It's going to be really long," she said, as she flipped through page after page.
Next came sharing time. Clayton shared the beautiful poem about the twin towers...a fitting piece for the day. Faith shared a poem called Grandma's House. She used what she learned in the focus lesson: Writers use space to allow a reader to enter a piece of writing.  But, she also used vivid details to paint a picture in the reader's mind.
Grandma's House
Grandma's house was always clean,
Grandma's  house used to always have mints,
Grandma's house was so much fun.
Grandma was always sitting in the turquoise rocking chair.
And sometimes when I go there I still see me and my grandma sitting,
I still see me and her sitting there eating mints and watching TV.
5th grade
Visiting a classroom where writer's workshop is happening with ease and precision, is a true joy!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Classroom Discussions Using Common Core Expectations

Yesterday I spent time in a fifth grade classroom during their reading time. After talking to their teacher about what was happening in the room, she asked if I wanted to do a read aloud/think aloud with the class.  She knows me really well because I never can turn down a chance to read to kids! It had been a long time since I have had that opportunity, so I jumped at this experience.

She had planned on reading the book Mr. Peabody's Apples by Madonna. It was one that I had read many times, so it was not a problem to know when to stop and talk in special places. I also knew I wanted to not only share the books message, but to see how the students did with talking about their thinking.

The teacher and I did an introduction and even read Madonna's dedication at the back of the book. I read. We stopped and they turned to partners and talked. They were seated in a circle on the floor of their gathering area. After talking to their partners they then shared with the whole group. The children understood the meaning of the book and could tell you the moral of the story along with the theme. Normally, I would be satisfied with how the discussion progressed. However, with the idea of Common Core State Standards, students need to do more than that. They need to carry on the discussion with only a little push from the teacher/facilitator.

First of all, the students would look at me rather than at each other when they shared their ideas. I did talk to them about speaking to the whole group, but it didn't really sink in with them. They didn't understand they were to have a discussion with the whole group. What they need next is to see how strong communicators use signals to talk to one another during a discussion. When we talk in groups such as at family gatherings we signal with our eyes, nod our heads, or join in at a pause. When two people start to talk at the same time, one of us knows to wait and listen.

To allow them to learn this skill I am going to suggest a game for the teacher to try. Here is how it goes: Have everyone in the class count from one to how ever many students there are in the class. They will not be assigned a number or raise their hands. They are allowed to only say ONE number.

The teacher would start by saying number one! Then another person will say tow and another will say three. They can only say a number once. If more than one person says a number, they must figure out a way...without go on. If they can't decide who goes next, then the game starts again. The game ends when they have counted from one to the end number.

When the game has been played through one time, ask the students to do it again. This time ask them to watch and think about what is happening. What signals or moves do people make to let you know who wants to talk? Be specific. The students should NOT go in the same order as before!

When they are done have them talk about how they figured out when they could say the next number. Make a two column chart: BODY SIGNALS.......HOW THOSE SIGNALS HELPED.

After the game, do the think aloud for the day. When it is time to discuss, say, "What are you thinking?" They can then use the body signals to keep the discussion going!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Using a Mentor Writer, Thanks, Debbie!

One of my mentor writers is Debbie Miller, author of Reading With Meaning, The Joy of Conferring, and Teaching With Intention. Being a founding member of the All Write!!! Consortium, I had the privilege of playing host to Debbie in my school district and therefore getting to know her personally.

As I have been developing my new activities as a retired teacher, I remembered the introduction to her book, Teaching With Intention. In her welcome she talked about leaving her classroom and moving all her 'stuff' home to her basement area. She developed a place for planning and reflection. The book even offered a couple pictures of her new place.
My reading chair

Book Baskets

For some reason, over the years those words and the pictures stayed in my mind. So, this past summer I did the same thing. I placed my books into shelves and baskets and made a planning and reflection place. I made a reading and writing space.

My grandparent's library desk
So, once again, Debbie has become my mentor as I start visiting schools and classrooms, writing blogs, and working with my grandchildren.
With a dozen grandchildren, I'm sure we will play a little 'school'.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Going Deeper With Comprehension

One of the books I had started using before I retired was Talk About Understanding by Ellin Oliver Keene.  In this book Ellin helps us rethink classroom talk to enhance comprehension.  This book is full of ways she helps students pull things out of the book and really think about their thinking.  Since I get more out of seeing someone actually do what they talk about, this book is wonderful because it also has a CD of her in the classroom.

The book has several chapters discussing her thinking. Then the following chapter takes you step by step through what she did in the classroom. You could watch the whole session and then read her step-by-step run down of it.  Or you could watch a part, read about that part, watch another part, stop and read about that part. This would be an excellent book for grade level collaboration or a book study.

A picture book that Ellin uses is One Green Apple by Eve Bunting. Ellin takes this book and stops at various places to have the children talk about their thinking. I liked how she talked about character empathy, setting empathy, and conflict empathy.  She explained that when the students connected with the text it was for a purpose of helping them understand the story. When a child had empathy for the character, it helped that child understand how the character felt because the child had felt the same way. When a child had empathy for the setting, it was because the child had been in that same setting and could visualize how it was in the text.

Ellin says it like this: "Advocacy implies that a reader may follow one character or plot element more intensively and may have the sense of being "behind" the character, wanting events to evolve in a particular way."

It is important the think alouds take the students deeper into the meaning of the text, but not tell them what to think!

Happy Reading!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Raising the Quality of Writing to Meet the Common Core

As we enter the month of September, many of the fourth and fifth grade classrooms are working on new units of study. Not only new to this year, but also new to them and their teachers. Following the common core state standards focuses on more rigorous writing, the units might be on Raising the Quality of Personal Narratives or Memoir writing.  Always before those units have been done in the spring when students have had a chance to collect many different types of writing and can draw from those. Actually, doing it in September is not much different.

 As the students are writing their personal stories, this time they will focus on what makes a quality piece of writing. They will write stories that have tension in them, like the Edge of Your Seat stories. They could write pieces that show turning points in their life or life-themes.

This might be a time to go back and review what makes good small moment stories. It would benefit the whole class to again write in their notebooks lists of things that would make a story that would keep their reader on the edge of their seat. Things like: first time they did something, last time, a time they were scared, an important event in their life, or a funny story. These lists would be something done quickly in their notebooks.

Another thing to review at the beginning of this unit would be the list of what makes good writing. This would make a great chart to develop as a class and post in the room. They would be reminded to ask themselves if they are using action, developing dialogue, taking time to add the thinking of the characters. Are they using descriptive details?

Starting off this unit with things that are familiar to you as the teacher as well as the students, keeps the workshop comfortable. By working on collecting these small stories for at least a week gives the writers a chance to feel comfortable in the new community of writers as well as the actual writing taking place. Collecting stories is a great way to begin getting ready for the larger task ahead of them. In the next few weeks they will be asked to spread their wings and try to go deeper and become even better writers.

Remember to take baby steps and enjoy your writing workshop!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Making Learning Personal

One of my retirement projects is to work with my 4-year-old granddaughter, Meron. Her mom is doing preschool with her, so I volunteered to do two days a month to prepare her for kindergarten.  She comes to my house and we do "school".

Here's a peek into our morning:
Here she is doing reading. We learned what a title is and what an author is. Then we predicted what we thought would happen in the book. We took a picture walk and then read the book together. At the end of the day, she got to pick a book to take home from a book bag. We also worked on reading the Alphabet Book.
Meron did some button sorting for her math time. She looked at all the buttons and then decided to sort them into buttons that were just alike. She dumped all the buttons onto the floor in order to see them better. We also did counting and wrote numbers during math time.
We did some writing, starting with practicing her name on a sentence strip. Then she wrote a wonderful story. It was about her brother, Lane, who threw a tomato at a squirrel this morning. Max, her dog barked and barked at the squirrel. She also could tell me that SHE is the author of this book.  At the end she put: THE END...well, that is what she told me it said! Even preschoolers can do writer's workshop!
Here Meron is with her Science Notebook.  She looked at two feathers and described them. Then she looked at them through a magnifying glass and found more things to describe them. We taped them into her notebook along with the descriptions.

After we finished each section of our day, she would cross it off our schedule board. She gathered her new book from the book bag, the book she wrote and an alphabet chart and number chart to take home. Oh, yes, and the left over snack!

Gramma Preschool is fun for Meron AND Gramma!!!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Investigative Education at ANY Age!

Many school districts have been in session for several weeks.  However, there are still a few that are just now starting out.  One of those is a preschool in my hometown. This preschool is special to me because a fellow retiree friend is starting her second career as a teacher of 4/5 year olds.  I have had the chance to visit the room twice as she was getting it ready for those kiddos tomorrow morning! Here are a few pictures I took in the room:

This is my favorite place...the writing area. It is full of all kinds of writing materials including pencils, paper, and crayons. There is also a basket full of various types of blank books just waiting for stories. I know that Connie, the teacher, will introduce each of these things before she turns the students loose to create their own writing pieces. Later, they will get to work on their own prompts for these children!
Here is the reading area. This is only one little corner of the room. Another side has a big rocking chair just waiting for someone to do a read aloud. There are also bags with a book and extra materials in it for the children to take home and share with their families. Don't you just want to curl up with a good book here in this space?
This space is shelves of jars filled with all kinds of things. After the teacher introduces the jar (one at a time), the children will have a chance to choose one of them to explore, investigate, and problem solve.  Under all those shelves you see many picture frames with NOTHING in them.  That is because the students will be making those pictures as they create master pieces...whatever they want and decide should go into those frames.

What can we take from this classroom?  When you walk into this room, you know immediately that the room belongs to the children...not the teacher. It is kid-friendly and just crying out for those kiddos to discover and learn whatever their hearts desire! Is your classroom like that?

Happy First Day of School. Preschool Friends! Can't wait to come back and visit when you all are there!