Saturday, May 31, 2014

What Summer is Great For!

As teachers, we are so stinkin' lucky, come Summer.  We work our butts off all year and then Summer comes and, as we all know, we participate in professional development, curriculum planning, and organizing, to name a few.   Many may disagree, but I think this makes us lucky.  What other professions use their breaks to learn more?  To better themselves?  We are lucky because we are willing to go above and beyond even when it is not necessary. 

So, how are you going above and beyond this summer?

I certainly hope you've been following along with Beth's Book Study of 100 Minutes.  {There's still plenty of time if you need to go grab your copy!} Kelly shares her thoughts about Chapter 3 today on her blog, An Apple for the Teacher!  I'll be sharing my thoughts on here tomorrow- so be sure to stop back by :)

And I hope you're as excited as I am to join Catherine's book study of Reading in the Wild.  I have heard about this book but never had the chance to read it!  I plan on ordering it asap and getting to work!

My highlighters and pens are ready...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Book Study! {Chapter 2: The Building Blocks}

As you know, it's on to Chapter 2 of our Book Study with Beth over at Thinking About Teaching!

What?  You're not following along?  Go grab a copy of Lisa Donahue's book, 100 Minutes, now!  It's okay, we'll be here when you get back. 

Chapter 2 is all about the building blocks of your literacy time: the routine, the instruction, and the workshop time, referred to as AWARD time.

Lisa starts off discussing the importance of building routines.  I don't know about you, but I'm a firm believer in spending a full 6 weeks at the beginning of the year, building community and setting expectations.  Lisa hits the nail on the head when she says, "The time that is invested in the first weeks of school to set stage for focused independent learning will be very much valued as the year progresses.  Independent work time makes it possible for all small-group instruction to happen" (p22).  When it comes down to it, independent work time is what it's all about.  Students get instruction from you and must have time to practice these skills.  It cannot be in a setting that is forced or rushed or boring and like Lisa stated on page 14, it must be important, relevant, and authentic to students.  There's no magic number that states for how long students should read and write each day- but we all know they should be doing both, for as long as possible, every single day in order to grow.

Now, with everything else teachers are expected to fit into a day, how in the world can we make it all happen?   There's the rub.  And luckily, 100 Minutes provides us some insight to what we can do, especially those of us who are struggling with a too-short day and barely any literacy time available.

Very similar to the Workshop Model, Lisa breaks down 100 minutes of Literacy time into a Reading Lesson, Writing Lesson, and AWARD time {Time for students to Apply Writing and Reading Daily}.  I kind of adore the idea of AWARD time {a real "workshop" time in my mind} where students are quietly working on separate tasks, focused on what you just talked about or what they need to complete.  It's very real world and full of purpose.

Sandwiched on either side of AWARD time is direct instruction.  This is where your typical mini-lessons would go.   What is your job during AWARD time?  Great question!  The teachers job is to meet with two small groups.  These instructional groups can be formed any way you need, in order to facilitate student learning.  "These groupings could include mixed-ability groups, talk-partners, instructional-level groupings, groupings by interest or topic, or self-selected partners" (p24) and should be flexible and always changing and adapting to your growing learners.
According to Lisa's planning, you are responsible for meeting with two groups for a Guided Reading lesson or a Writing Conference each day.  Lisa plans these groups so meticulously that each Guided Reading group you meet with, heads into their AWARD time to read independently, immediately using the skills and work you just discussed.  Likewise, a Writing Conference will happen after students have spent time working on their writing.  They will come to you with questions, concerns, and you will be available for answers.  As Lisa puts it, "Structuring a literacy block so that students are able to meet with the teacher immediately before reading independently and immediately following independent writing allows for timely instruction, feedback, and transfer of learning."  (p25)  Perfection.  She lays out a weekly plan in her book, which I would love to share but then why would you ever need your own copy?  And you should have your own copy.  Go grab one

I feel like this does a nice job summing it all up!
As the year continues, Lisa provides ways to enhance these 100 minutes, adding in all the pieces of a balanced literacy.  Not only does she tell you the what- she shares how to seamlessly do this and provides all sorts of tools for you to copy and reproduce, in her book!  I love that she includes a section on Building in Accountability {so challenging when you have all this workshop time}, a Week at a Glance, and a Sample Yearly Timeline for Introduction of Elements of the Literacy Block.  Word.

Are you blogging about the book too?  Please link up, below, so we can check it out!

Be sure to stop by Kelly's blog, An Apple for the Teacher on Saturday to join in on the next installment!! Rumor has it, there may be a giveaway involved :)

There are a few guidelines that Lisa Donohue and her publisher have asked that people follow.
Please read through these carefully. 
  • Anything created for 100 MINUTES should be shared for free. 
  • Anything created and shared based on 100 MINUTES should include a disclosure statement  "Adapted from 100 MINUTES and not endorsed by Lisa Donohue." 
  • Please cite the complete publication information:  "100 MINUTES, (2012), Donohue Lisa, Pembroke Publishers" in order to make it easier for others to find the book.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Book Study! {Chapter 1: 100 Minutes}

Literacy.  Balanced Literacy.  Reading.  Writing.  Spelling.  Word Study.  Handwriting.  Comprehension.  Fluency.  So much goes into Literacy!  Where do you fit it all in?  Many teachers {myself included} can feel flustered just thinking about it!

I am very excited to be joining the Book Study with Beth from Thinking of Teaching. Whenever I'm feeling stuck, I can think of nothing I like more than to grab a good teacher book.  New or old, these books are full of wisdom.  Some speak to you, guiding you this way or that way.  Others reinforce what you're already doing and give you new motivation.  Some make you reevaluate your best practice.

Grab your copy!
My hope for myself {and all teachers really} is that this practice is the norm.  The moment I become lackadaisical about my practice is the moment I should no longer be doing it.  Would you want a doctor to stop learning?  Teachers should always, always, always, always, be learning.  So again, I am SO excited to be joining Beth for this book study of 100 Minutes:  Making Every Minute Count in the Literacy Block by Lisa Donahue. Have you grabbed your copy yet?  Grab a latte {or heck, it's Summer, grab some Sangria!} and pull out your highlighters and crack that book.

This past weekend my husband and I went away to celebrate his big 3-0!  I surprised him with flights and tickets to the Monaco Gran Prix {something that's been on his bucket list forever} and used the most of my travel time {airports, buses, taxis, hotels} to maximize my reading.  My hubby snapped a few pictures of me- hard at work.

Chapter 1 of 100 Minutes sets the guidelines for the book.  My first thought:  I love that the book has quotes and space along the margin!  Perfect for note taking and thought processing!  What good is a teacher book if you can't rip it apart and make it your own? 

I love that Lisa Donahue is so down to earth; open about her own trials and tribulations as a teacher.  And most importantly, she's been there.  She's a teacher.  She gets what it's like.  I love what she says on page 14, "students should always see their learning as important, relevant, and authentic."  Already she has spoken to me; shown me that she knows "what's up". 

Lisa breaks the literacy block into 3 "chunks".
-  A Reading Lesson
-  A Writing Lesson
-  AWARD Time {which in my mind is "workshop" time}

With the stakes being raised, it's time for us to figure out how we can "fit it all in" and 100 Minutes provides a new way of thinking... a different style for us to use in the classroom.  I am ecstatic to continue reading and learn more about this strategy.

Be sure to stop by tomorrow to learn all about Chapter 2!  And if you're reading along and sharing your thoughts, please link up below!  See you tomorrow :)

There are a few guidelines that Lisa Donohue and her publisher have asked that people follow.

Please read through these carefully. 

  • Anything created for 100 MINUTES should be shared for free. 
  • Anything created and shared based on 100 MINUTES should include a disclosure statement  "Adapted from 100 MINUTES and not endorsed by Lisa Donohue." 
  • Please cite the complete publication information:  "100 MINUTES, (2012), Donohue Lisa, Pembroke Publishers" in order to make it easier for others to find the book.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Using Music to Support Lessons

I don't know about you- but I love using music in the classroom.   Using it for transitions, for signals, for celebrations, for anything.  But I had never really thought about using music for lessons.  Working with ESL students this year, it fascinated me how many American songs they knew the words to, without even realizing it!  And I quickly realized there are some amazing websites out there to help teachers practice listening to songs and filling in the gaps. Two of my favorite to work with this year have been LyricsTraining and LyricsGap.  They are fun to use and oh so simple.  All you have to do is go to the website, choose your song, and listen away!!  I like to view everything ahead of time for 2 reasons... 1)  I like to make sure the video and language are 100% appropriate and 2)  I like to write the words out on flashcards.  See why below.  

I have yet to have trouble finding a song I want!  They have nearly everything. 
Choose your song!
And plug in the missing lyrics
 LyricsGaps has a special feature that allows you to create your own gaps in songs and then assign them to students.  Students can complete this for homework and you get their scores!


AND THEN comes my fav part- using words from the song, I create flashcards and we use them to form sentences.  Whattt?  So brilliant and easy.  Each time we do this, my camera is either full or I forget it!  Sorry- no pictures of kiddos in action.  But not only does it get them creating sentences, it gets them speaking and singing, and feeling more comfortable with the beautiful English language- A huge win-win for me!! 

How do you use music to help you in the classroom?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Dissecting Frogs and Worms

Me?  Dissect frogs?  Umm no thank you.  Last year my 5th graders were dying to dissect somethingAnything.  "Please, please Mrs. G!" they would say.  I was talking it over with my co-teacher one day and she offered to do it with the kids.  Whhhhhattt?  I wanted to jump up and down for joy.  Listen- I am all about hands-on learning.  And I am all about dissection.  But teaching it?  Having to try it on my own.  I just wasn't so sure. 

But Mrs. Cahill is fabulous and she is a science goddess and she knew exactly what to do to wrap up our Human Body Unit.  And NOW, I recommend giving it a try yourself.  Seriously!  She made it SO easy and the students loooved it.  Skeptical?  I don't blame you, but here's all you need to do. 

First you'll need to order your frogs (I recommend getting worms too because they're cheap and great practice before starting on the frog).  We ordered enough worms for every students and enough frogs for every two students.  You can find all sorts of websites selling these guys, but we used HomeScienceTools and absolutely recommend it!  The best part is, the worms and frogs come shrink wrapped and can just be stored in a cabinet until you're ready to use them- no smell, no mess, no fuss! 

You'll also need tools- a dissecting pan, scissors, a scalpel, a teasing needle, and pins.  You can get kits with more, but these are the absolute basics you'll want to have and can be found pretty inexpensively. Our school had them on hand so we lucked out!  I've since discovered that a styrofoam tray, exacto knife, toothpick, and small scissors will work as well.

Mrs. Cahill began by discussing the basic safety that goes along with dissection.  A basic Safety Contract was sent home for students and parents to sign and in class students watched this great Safety Video. Before we could even start the lesson, Mrs. Cahill had students answer a question in their science notebooks.  Why are we dissecting worms and frogs?

After students were ready to be safe learners, Mrs. Cahill went over the basic tools and steps involved in dissection.  She did this verbally, instead of having the steps written down, so that students had to listen and wouldn't rush ahead.  Starting with worms gave students an idea of how to hold the scalpel, how hard to press when cutting, and what to expect.  The worms were MUCH cooler than I had anticipated.  You can find "how to" guides online as well as videos.  Mrs. Cahill followed these and tried it herself to figure out the steps, then wrote down steps that worked for our class.  She used those steps to instruct our learners.  

We had set aside an entire morning to focus on dissections so we moved right into frogs after the worms, but you could easily make this a two or three day process.  It can get smelly though- so I recommend a larger block of time :)

The frogs took a little longer and were  a little more difficult- but full of some amazing information!!   Some students even found food in the stomach of their frog- Talk about unforgettable learning experience. 

After the dissections, students reflected on the experience.  You can pick up a Dissection Reflection here!  This helps students think about the activity and put some knowledge to it.

Okay, so it took some work- but dissecting frogs was beyond worth the prep.  I will absolutely be doing this in the years to come!  It really taught me not to hesitate about doing a lesson just because it's outside of my comfort zone.  I hope it helps you too :)  Thanks Mrs. Cahill!!

After our dissections... me holding a bag of dissected frogs- yikes!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Dachau Concentration Camp

Hey teaching friends, have you read Prisoner B-3087 or Night or Number the Stars or The Diary of Anne Frank?  You probably have a good idea of what these books have in common, besides being powerful teaching tools- but why am I writing about them?  Good question.

Right now the holocaust is of special interest to me because my husband and I recently traveled to Munich, Germany.  While we were there we visited Dachau Concentration Camp.  Holy cow.  What an experience.  Was this my first choice in places to visit?  No.  "What about a beer tour?" I tried to convince myself.  But as the days ticked by, I realized I couldn't be here and not go.  A place with so much history and so much to learn should be visited.  Should be shared.  And so here it is. 

Before traveling to Germany, I finished reading the book Prisoner B-3087.  This book has an amazingly powerful message and is a great read aloud for the classroom or for book clubs.  Reading the book and then traveling to some of the places mentioned really brought the main
character, Yanek's, story to life.  Dachau (pronounced Da-how) is the final concentration camp that Yanek is sent to, before being freed by US soldiers.  When you walk in, you're "welcomed" with a sign over the gate that states, "Arbeith macht frei" (work makes you free).  Yanek talks about seeing this sign as he enters a concentration camp.

During World War II, there were as many as 2,000 prisoners in one of the 30 barracks at Dachau.  You can see just one the barracks in the picture below. Prisoners would share the bunks with so many people that they had to lay bunched together on their sides. 

The "roll call" field in front of the barracks.
Bunks in the barracks.
Seeing the places that you've read about really brings it all to life.  

And wow is it scary.  

This is a shower room that was also used as a gas chamber.  The room I was standing in was the undressing room where prisoners would have to undress, not knowing if they were walking into a shower room or a gas chamber.  "Brausebad" above the door means "shower room" but the Nazis were known for playing tricks on their prisoners. 

From the shower room, you walk into another room, the crematorium.

I have learned so much this year- but I think that traveling here really showed me how important it is to see history.  I knew a lot about the holocaust, had read a lot, and had heard many stories- but being at Dachau enabled me to understand so much more.  It made me think about history as a teacher.  How important field trips are, how much learning can be done outside of books, lessons, and worksheets.  I loved this quote I found towards the end of our time at Dachau.

Each of us today is shaping the background history of tomorrow.

History is powerful and I can already think of so many things I want to share with my little learners.  So many lessons and messages.  How are you shaping the history of tomorrow?