Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Look Closely Like a Scientist

I am truly blessed that my team has a wonderful Instructional Coach who works closely with us each year.  Our Title I Grant funds 4 Professional Development days a year with our Coach, Rebecca Kaverman.  Since we are focusing on Lucy Calkin's Units of Study for a second year in a row, we spent yesterday planning our next two Units of Study.  Today was our first instructional day for our new unit, "Look Closely Like a Scientist."

This unit is found in the "If, Then" book in Calkins Units of Study.  Since my co-worker, Karen Korty, was invited to attend The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project over the summer we benefited greatly from her new knowledge of how to use this "If, Then" book.  (If you can find a way to go to NYC for this amazing training...DO IT!)

We spent our first 2 hours planning our teaching points and laying out a schedule of the lessons to convey these teaching points.  The "If, Then" book just gives you guidance and not daily lessons.  At first, this seemed odd to us.  However, it allowed us to personalize the lessons that our students need at this early time of the year.  It also allowed us to deliver the teaching points that will grasp our students' attention.  (In the afternoon, we met with Rebecca to firm up our plan and prep all our writing books needed for this unit.)

A beautiful plan was put into action today.  Take a look at the photos--you see that excitement on my students' faces?  Yes, they are already hooked for this next unit of study.  

We are going to focus on pattern books that focus on describing Autumn through the use of our senses.  My students have grasped drawing a picture and adding a label.  Some have a story tellers voice.  Others do not.  By using the simple teachings points of making lists and writing a pattern book, my students will be able to make the connection that words that are spoken can be written.  

Today, we took a walk and used our eyes to discover what Autumn looks like around us.  When we returned, we made a list of the things we saw and collected in our partner bags.  These partner bags will now become part of our science center.

We have a walk scheduled for the next four weeks.  (Praying for perfect weather on each of those days!)  Tomorrow, I will model how to think and plan a pattern book for the sense of sight.  My students will then practice thinking and planning their own pattern book.  Then I will release them to start their new work.  

I think I am as excited as they are!  

Monday, September 29, 2014

STRESS...Be Gone! I'm BACK!

I am relaunching, or should we say "Reviving" my blog.  Last school year became way to busy and stressful to keep up with my idea of blogging about using Lucy Calkins Units of Study.  Although I do not promise to give a day by day script of my lessons, I will touch on how my second year is going with the Units of Study.  I survived the first year and this year it is much easier to plan and teach Writer's Workshop.  More on this later...

Today what I really want to talk about is my transformation physically!  In only 10 weeks, I went from a size 14/16 to a size 8. 

How?  First, I changed my mindset.  My self talk kept telling me that I was overweight just because I was getting older.  I should just settle with what my "genes" had dealt me.  This is a LIE!  Don't let your "self talk" tell you this lie.  You are wonderfully and beautifully created.  God has wired our bodies to respond to a healthy lifestyle.  Just look at my results:

Just changing my "self talk" did not make me transform.  I needed help and turned to Shaun T's Focus T25 fitness DVDs from Beachbody.  (You know the P90X infomercials?  Same Company.)  Shaun's program packs an hour of exercise in just 25 minutes.  It fit into my busy schedule perfectly.  I also took Shaun's advice to add Shakeology, the Healthiest Meal of the Day, to my daily diet and cleaned up the foods I was eating.

I loved the results I was seeing and decided to take it a step further.  I am now a Beachbody Coach!  By being a coach I am helping others change their mindset and become healthier and fit.

Are you ready to change your mindset about your health, weight, and/or fitness level?  If so, I would love to come along side of you and cheer you on.  Leave me your name and email in the comments below.  You can also like and contact me through my fitness page,  

Stay tuned...I am working a free giveaway for next week.  You won't want to miss it!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Bend 1 Session 2 Growth in Pics

I am not feeling well tonight, but had to try to post some pics of the amazing growth from day 1 to day 2 of my students this year in writers workshop.  I am feeling more confident at teaching writing this year.  I captioned the photos to let them be my "voice" tonight.

We have read and discussed Freight Train by Donald Crews two times.
One student used a technique from this book to show speed.  (see student's work below)

"FAOR" is an ear spelling from a student who was retained last year.
This is his first time ear spelling on his own.  I was surprised by this that
I was choking back some tears of joy.  What does it spell?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Writers Workshop: Bend 1 Session 1 Recap

Today was the day!  The tenth day of school and my class officially started "Writers Workshop".  The first 9 days of school we spent exploring all our "school tools" during our planned writing time, but today was launch day using Lucy Calkins Units of Study based on CCSS.

Wow!  Great things are already happening with my students.  I am not sure if it is due to me having an actual writing curriculum this year or the fact that my students seem very interested in the "academics" of school.  (They all still ask when play time is, but this group is easily focused on doing school work.)

Did the lesson go perfectly as written by Lucy Calkins?  NO.  Lucy left out the part where you needed to stop and remind the students about Criss-Cross etc.  But once we were settled, our mini lesson began.

I had planned and organized well for this lesson.  This paid off big time!  Having chart paper mounted to the Eno Board and my own box of new markers was a plus.  (Confession--I am not a fan of chart paper, but the Post It brand that our principal ordered for us was very easy to use.)  I decided to go with Lucy's example of a teaching story too--my grandma's garden.  Maybe next year I will come up with another idea, but right now easy is best for me.

After the mini lesson I sent each student on their way to write and draw about what they could teach someone about.  About 7 minutes in, I had one boy exclaim, "I'm DONE!"  I circled around and asked him to tell me about his paper.  He said he had drawn himself riding his scooter.  I looked and found a one color drawing of a boy on a scooter--with lots of white space left on the page.  I asked where are you?  He pointed to the drawing of the boy and said, "Right there."  LOL.  Silly, Mrs. Wolf.  I rephrased my question to prompt him to draw more details of "where" he was.  When I circled back he had added a blue sky and grass.  Success!  He added more details.

Another student asked me to spell monster truck for him.  I replied, "I won't tell you how to spell the words, but I will help you learn how to "ear spell" the words."  I modeled how to stretch a word. After helping with the first sound, he continued stretching the words.  He was able to write "mrtc" for monster truck.  He had a beginning and ending sound for two words.  This is the first day of Writer's Workshop--What will next week bring?

Looking at the clock, I knew we had to come back together for a share time.  Ugh!  I always hated share time because there is never enough time to let each child share their work with the class.  I hated hearing the "But Mrs. Wolf, I want to share mine too."  Guess what?  This did not happen today.  I tried what Lucy recommended.  Have the students share their work with someone next to them.  I gave them two minutes to share with their close neighbors on the carpet.  It worked!  No complaints.

I ended the lesson with coming up with a "club" name.  The students needed some help on this one.  So I suggested "Super Writers" and they all agreed.  (Super Writers is what Lucy called her club in the curriculum.  Easy Peasy!)

I forgot to take pics of some of their work.  I will post pics later.  If I was not so tired, I would run over to school and take a pic of some right now...but it will have to wait until tomorrow.  Thanks for visiting my blog.  Leave me comment about your writers workshop.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Donors Choose Communities--Giving Pages

If you are facebook friends with me, you know that I was all about my 3 Donors Choose projects this summer.  Before this summer, I had posted only 1 DC project that did "magically" become fully funded  without my promotion.  I think the only reason it funded without promotion by me was because is was a very small dollar amount.

In my school district, I am required to receive approval from my school board before posting to Donors Choose due to it being a type of "grant".  Due to this, I wrote 3 proposals for the summer months all at once.  It takes some planning to meet deadlines but my students are worth it.  I knew with 3 projects up at the same time, I would need a lot of help promoting them.

First promotion I did was to contact my family and friends via facebook and email.  A few donations trickled in from this attempt.  It was a good start, but not enough to fund even one of them.

One afternoon, I stumbled across a facebook page that was a "giving page".  I had no idea what a giving page was about so I liked the page and read up on the posts.  I discovered that Donors Choose has communities that some refer to giving pages.  Giving pages will promote projects via facebook and twitter to their members.  Most hold contests where the prizes may range from $5 on up when you simply donate a $1 to one of their projects listed on their page.  You become a member of the community when you donate at least $1 to a project.

Over the next several weeks I became obsessed with giving pages!  I stalked them and figured out how to get my projects listed onto their giving pages.  It took a little bit of effort, but I succeeded in having all 3 projects listed on at least 1 giving page by giving to other projects that were listed on their pages.  Two of the 3 projects have been fully funded thanks to exposure from these communities.  One more to go.  Yay!

You maybe saying to yourself, "Why would you give to someone else project?  Just put the money towards your own."  First of all, each $1 given through Donors Choose is a tax deduction due to its 501c status.  Second, I learned through my years in business that nothing can flow through a tight fist.  When you are willing to support others, that support comes back around to you.  Old reap what you sow.

I am posting the links to my favorite giving pages that have helped me fund my projects.  If you need a way to promote your DC project, seek these giving pages out on facebook and follow them.  Look for helpful tips in their file sections on facebook.  (Southern Hospitality has great files listed.)

Here are my favorite giving page communities:

Kindergarten Rocks
Send A Smile
Memories and Milestones
Hand in Hand
Southern Hospitality
Caring Classrooms
Northern Lights

Right now there is a Back To School Contest going on that is sponsored by many of the giving pages.  Follow this link to Send A Smile for details.  Over the next 11 days, there will be 4--$10 DC winners compliments of Donors Choose!

Friday, August 16, 2013

How We Survived a Narrative Writing Prompt

I mentioned in an earlier post that my school is focusing on our students' writing process this year.  We are using Lucy Calkins latest writing curriculum Units of Study which is aligned with the CCSS.  I love the lessons that are laid out in this curriculum!

However, there was one section I was hoping maybe the kindergarten teachers could just skip due to our young ones not knowing enough to write.  They are just beginning their journey to become writers.  How could I ever ask them "to write" a narrative on the THIRD day of school?  Ask them to spend 45 minutes "writing"?  Not only am I asking them "to write" but I am using vocabulary they have never heard of in the prompt.

And then there is the task of taking down dictation for each and every student so I can see their thought process.  I have 22 new kindergarteners who don't know how to raise their hand to speak yet.  As soon as I ask the first one about their work, the other 21 will be surrounding me calling out, "Mrs. Wolf!  Mrs. Wolf, look at mine next!"

Off to our planning meeting before the second day of school I went with all these thoughts and concerns.  The topic of the meeting was the narrative writing prompt.  I was a brave teacher who raised her hand in a planning meeting.  I spoke of my biggest concern--taking down the dictation for each of my 22 students.  The other two kindergarten teachers agreed that dictation was our biggest challenge. As a staff we had a short discussion if dictation was necessary.  We decided it was definitely necessary based on the rubrics that are provided in Lucy Calkins' materials.  We needed to see each student's thought process.  Did the words they wanted to write match their pictures?  Did they attempt a first sound by writing some letters under the picture?  Did they have a beginning, middle and end when they spoke of their narrative?  So much information can be gathered from dictation.

So our staff came up with a solution to have our Title I aides assist with the dictation.  Our school is blessed with amazing aides who support our classrooms in so many ways.  Since our school is just beginning, the aides could adjust their schedule in the morning to be in our three classrooms to help.

Third Day of School--Writing Prompt Day

When two aides and our instructional coach arrived in my classroom this morning, I was still instructing some basic procedures for our classroom restroom.  I hope they loved my chant, "Potty, Potty. Flush, Flush.  Wash, Wash.  Hush, Hush."  Oh well, it is the things we have to do when teaching kindergarten.  But back to the writing prompt...

Once I finished our restroom procedures, I had the students meet me on our carpet.  I used the writing prompt from Lucy's book.  The questions were excellent from my students.  They wanted to know what "details" were and what is a "narrative".  They were ready to try.  After short explanations, I handed out the paper to write their narrative writing piece.  I praised those who got to work right away, just like Lucy said to do in her lessons.  One by one, each student got busy.  They got busy doing the "best" writing they could do!  It was a beautiful thing to see and experience.

The two aides, instructional coach and I each took a table group of students.  We had sticky notes on clip boards and pen in hand.  We asked child to tell us about their paper.  WoW!  The dictation results were amazing!  So much information that I can now use to know exactly where each child is starting their writing journey in kindergarten.

I have the full spectrum of "writers" in my room too.  Everything from the scribble to a full sentence with finger spaces.  Some students drew pictures that look like scribble to the untrained eye.  Others drew familiar things like houses.  Some added details like stairs and light switches to their house.  Two told about a small moment in their dictations with a beginning, middle and end.

The writing prompt was not only the highlight of my day, but my week!  I can not wait to see the growth these children will make as writers this year.

Does your school have a writing curriculum?  Do you do writing prompts?  Share your experiences with writing prompts in the comments below.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

And the Winner Is...

It has been a long first day of school with students.  Before putting on my PJ's and heading to bed, I wanted to post the winner of my "Git R Done 2" Contest.

Drum roll, please...

BJ contacted me and the donation has been made to BJ's project, Calling All Students to Learn.  Show BJ some "love" by stopping by the link and donating a $1 or more.