Tuesday, March 30, 2010


So, after reading Katie's blog post at creativeliteracy I was inspired to give Animoto a try. Like Katie I am now addicted and am just spinning with ideas about how I can use this with my first graders. I can't wait to show this to them when we get back from break.

I have attached my first try at making a video. It is of the loves of my life, my dogs:) I hope you enjoy.

Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Big Nate

If your classroom is at all like mine- Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a big time favorite (especially for boys). The series has hooked even my most reluctant readers. The newest one, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Movie Diary, has taken the class by storm (but that's another post).

Unfortunately, aside from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, there are not many diary style/comic books out there for boys. I have spent a great deal of time looking for similar books so my boys will continue there enthusiasm for reading. I was lucky enough to come across Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce. Big Nate is a syndicated comic strip and now it's being turned into a tween series. It's format is alot like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and there's even a review quote from Jeff Kinney on the cover.

Book Summary:
Big Nate is in a class by himself! Nate knows he's meant for REALLY big things. But life doesn't always go your way just because you're awesome. Trouble always seems to find him, but Nate keeps his cool no matter what. He knows he's great. A fortune cookie told him so.

I just put it in the hands of one of my Diary of a Wimpy Kid fanatic. Here's to hoping it'll hook him....

I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Good Teacher is....

Yesterday my students and I started a brand new wiki/blog space. It is a page our district created for us that has both a wiki and blog component. We discussed the purpose for each component and let the kids explore. Each student blogged about the idea "A good teacher is...." in response to the first couple chapters in Bridge to Terabithia after meeting Mrs. Myers' (the teacher in the story).

Here are a couple of their responses:
A good teacher is....
-filled with peace.
-a listener.
-reminds their students of the classroom promises and expectations.
-helps people to be a nice teacher and person
-Happy because you don't your teacher to be grumpy and fun because you don't want to live a boring life on the weekdays.
-Another way to describe a good teacher is playful. She plays and laughs with kids.
-Respect is a teachers greatest value so they help scared kids that need help.
-I like Teachers that I can understand what the class is doing and that can understand me.

I love reading what they have to say and finding what is important to them. These were just a FEW of the many insightful thoughts they shared. I LOVED the "filled with peace" one. He told me that I was filled with peace. I hope so (however, there are times when I know this is not true...haha!). This activity left me inspired to meet their expectations as they all seem very reasonable to me!

Disclaimer: Of course, now that they know how to blog/wiki, the student will use these resources in a variety ways that make sense to them (podcasts, book reviews, writing workshop, videos, etc.). We started with a general topic so that we could introduce blogging.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

That Workshop Book: Reflection 6

My favorite part of the day, hands-down, is read aloud. I value this piece of our learning so much- we have read aloud at least twice a day. During read alouds, we have conversations about the story we're hearing, the author's craft, new words, predictions, etc. I am hearing them process all the thinking that happens while reading. Talk about authentic assessment! It is also one of the most intimate times in our classroom. I love that Samantha Bennett refers to this time as "re-creating the emotional and intellectual pleasure of lap time reading as well as bringing your students into the grown up world of sitting around the dinner table for hours having fascinating conversations." The tone and atmosphere we create during a read aloud is gentle, yet purposeful, allowing kids to feel safe taking risks and sharing their ideas. I love that many of them will check out the same book from the school or local library and read along with me. Or check the same book out months later to revisit the story because they loved the experience so much. Read aloud allows us to hear other's thinking which helps us grow as learners. We observe strategies to improve for reading comprehension, accuracy and fluency. It is a time of inspiration for us as readers and writers. Independently, they will read with more expression or write in similar style as they stories they hear. Many of our read alouds end up being mentor texts for our writers. Worth mentioning- this is my first year with a Smartboard. One of my favorite features is the Smart Camera that can be used with it. I am able to take pictures and magnify illustrations and/or passages from read alouds with the camera and have them on the Smartboard. Then the kids can come up and write on, circle and/or engage with the story in a different way. Also, they just are better able to see the features (illustration/text) of the story. This was especially helpful when reading Hugo Cabret.

That Workshop Book: Reflection 5

Our district has adopted Progress Book. It is a transparent, on-line grade book that provides parents constant access to their child's progress at school. It is also meant to provide administrators easy access to the happenings in each classroom and a streamline, consistent recording system for teachers. Needless to say, there has been a GREAT deal of conversation about how to authentically and thoughtfully use this tool in the best interest of our students (particularly primary students).
While reading, That Workshop Book, I immediately thought of Progress Book when Samantha Bennett said, "Many brilliant, amazing teachers, when you ask them how they know what their students know and are able to do, would answer ......they know their students deeply and can tell you stories about them, their lives, their habits as students, their likes and dislikes. But when you ask them "HOW do you know?" they answer, I just see it all like that, you see". Samantha goes on to explain that this is wonderful but we need to be asking ourselves- How do I know all of my students are growing in their skills and understanding reading? How do I help students make "invisible" skills of reading "visible"? What can I do to help my students read better?
Progress book requires us to make these invisible skills visible. We are going to be held accountable by our administrators, parents and colleagues. But after reading and reflecting on this part of That Workshop Book, I was reminded of WHY I chose this amazing occupation and WHO I should keep in mind when using this new tool. It is all about the learners in my classroom. I want to make sure that I stay true to what I believe as an educator/learner, that really knowing your students means knowing their likes/dislikes, their habits and life stories. It also means knowing how to SHOW them their growth as learners. Progress Book is really requiring me to shift my ways of showing my students growth. It is so important that I don't let it change the avenues we use to accomplish this growth. I am hoping to find a way to make Progress Book work for my students and I- that instead of focusing on the scores/points/grades- we should focus on the journey of learning.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

That Workshop Book: Reflection 4

In That Workshop Book, Samantha Bennett says that we need to "think about how you want your days with children to begin and end." When we think about what we want our students to experience each morning when they walk in our room and each afternoon before they leave- we need to ask ourselves- what matters most? For me- that is the feeling of community. Students really love to know their opinions and ideas are valued. Samantha Bennett suggestions that the best way to go about valuing our students ideas and opinions is to ask for them. So I did just that. I asked them how they would like to start our school days. Prior to this, our morning routine varied (as it still will on occasion) with free learning time, reading workshop, quick checks for math, and/or word study activities. After checking with my kids, they overwhelmingly chose free learning time. Their reasons: 1. Although it is focused learning, they get to choose what that learning is based on their mood that day. 2. It is relaxing/No pressure. 3. They can leisurely get started after greeting friends and catching up on the prior night/weekend's events. How could I argue with this reasoning. And as I mention- after asking myself the same question about how I wanted our days to begin- I said "with a sense of community." Does the student's reasons support my feelings as well?? I love it when that happens. Although, we still have the occasional quick check, we spend most our mornings reading, writing, on the laptops, playing math games, creating, thinking, learning based on individual interests.

This week, the kids and I are going to rethink how we want to end our days together. Sometimes the end of our days feel so rushed that I leave the classroom feeling uneasy. I would love to find a way to end our time together each day on a calm note as a classroom family. Perhaps a family meeting discussing the days events?? I look forward to chatting with the kids about it as they always have such smart ideas to share.


One of my students made this Claymation piece to help share his research on the Bobsled. So cool!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

That Workshop Book: Reflection 3

Literary nonfiction, research and sharing that research are huge units of study for both reading and writing in our district (and the state of Ohio) during third grade. Reading nonfiction can be really tricky for many readers- especially young ones. Most times, you are reading nonfiction for purposes different from those when you read fiction (namely, research). Not only are the students asked to comprehend what they are reading but they are expected to share it in an organized, factual, way. It is pretty tricky for most of my students to find their voice and share their research in a literary nonfiction writing piece. What better way to help them find their voice and create quality piece of purposeful work than MENTOR TEXTS!!?? Samantha Bennett really focuses on using mentor text to help scaffold final projects in That Workshop Book (pg. 63). I have created a collection of literary nonfiction books in my classroom that the kids have used to scaffold their research projects on the Olympics. These books have a variety of themes, layouts and ideas for sharing information. "Students learn to write by studying the craft and process of other writers."
Here are some of the books in our literary nonfiction collection:
First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert
Vulture View by April Pulley Sayre
Now and Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin by Gene Barretta
A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant
Actual Size by Steve Jenkins
What is Science by Rebecca Kai Dotlich
This is Your Life Cycle by Heather Lynn Miller
One Is a Snail, Ten Is a Crab by April Pulley Sayre
On This Spot: An Expedition Back Through Time by Susan E. Goodman
Trout Are Made of Trees by April Pulley Sayre
Animal Dads by Sneed Collard
An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Aston
Unbeatable Beaks by Stephen R. Swinburne
Flight by Robert Burleigh
Home At Last by April Pulley Sayre
Lives: Poems About Famous Americans selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins

After sharing some of these stories as mentor text, the kids had lots of different, fun and personal ideas on how they might share their Olympic research. As Samantha says, "It provides a variety of entry points for their own writing" and sharing.