Saturday, October 24, 2015

Good Morning

We've been in school 40-something days, and I've finally managed to train most of my 26 students to reply to my daily morning greeting. I always tell each one, "Good morning" when I see them at the door. One would think they would know what to say in return, but they don't until someone like myself teaches them. 

I've said these words many a time: 
"So tomorrow when I see you at the door, your goal will be to say 'Good morning' when I say it to you. Let's all practice." 

I love it when some of them arrive and beat me to the words. Of course, I make a big deal about that, because it's a contagious kind of thing that spurs others to follow suit.

At this point, if someone doesn't say it back to me, I say, "That's when you say..." and they'll remember the appropriate reply. 

I just think it's important for little people to practice social awareness and respect. They don't know what that looks like until someone teaches them, and oftentimes that someone is their teacher.  

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Teacher Tweets

I recently put myself in charge of a staff development idea inspired by Twitter. First I got permission from my principal. Then I set up this display in our teacher's lounge. For the past few weeks I've put up little snippets to stimulate reflection and conversation. I've encouraged teachers to respond and even respond to the responses of others. When the conversation dies down, a new thought goes up. I've got a handful of ideas to put on the boards, but I've also made sure everyone knows this area belongs to the whole staff. I'm planning to leave some blank spaces very soon in hopes others will display quotes they've discovered. Hopefully this is a new tradition that invites busy teachers to join important conversations, reflect on pedagogy, and tweak practices when necessary, even if it means on the go while rushing through the teacher's lounge. 

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Saturday, October 10, 2015

National Learn a Word Day (freebie)

For a few years now I've been making an attempt (sometimes feeble) at "celebrating" national unknown holidays throughout the year. This coming Friday is National Learn a Word Day, and I'm asking my first graders to get involved. I was inspired by Miss Trayers at Not Just Child's Play in posts like this one. I like how she gets kids physically engaged in the learning and celebration of new vocabulary. 

Click on the graphic if you're interested in having your own copy.

I sent this sheet home with everyone yesterday. I filled out their name and gave each child a word. At first I thought about having the kids, with parent help, come up with a word, but I'm not sure of the results I'd get. Maybe that will come at another time. On top of drawing their word, I'm really hoping some of them take on the challenge of dressing up as their word, bringing an object that helps us understand their word better, or acting out their word. I'm hoping this goes well, not only so I can share the results here on my blog, but also so I can look for other ways to extend this kind of thinking and learning about vocabulary all throughout the year.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Today and Every Day (Freebie)

I've known for a long time that conferring, though a powerful tool, doesn't automatically guarantee the writer will take what's given and consistently put it to use. I finally developed a tool that I hope will increase those odds ever so slightly. 

Since Lucy Calkins has taught me to say, "Today and every day..." to my writers when I'm leaving them with a strategy, I decided to name this tool the Today and Every Day Bookmark. 

When I confer with a writer, I draw the teaching point on their bookmark. (Drawing ensures access even after I leave them. Fluent readers obviously don't necessarily need pictures.) I made the bookmark nice and long so that I can add additional teaching points when the writer is ready to move on. By the way, the bookmark lives in the child's writing folder so it's always available during writing workshop time. It's also printed on cardstock for extra durability. Here are a few examples and a copy at the bottom just for you.  

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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Saturday Sayings: Triumph Changes Everything

This week a few teacher friends observed one of my writing workshop sessions. When I met with them later in the week, they commented on a specific conferring moment I had with one of my writers. They talked about what a great writer he was. Little did they know he has been my most reluctant writer and thinker of the year. They were completely surprised and never would have guessed that writing workshop typically induces his pout-pout face, helplessness, and very little output. That is, until very recently when he started believing me when I say, "You can do this."

Honestly, it hasn't been a pain-free process. From my observations, formative assessments, and conversations with his kindergarten teacher, I knew he had all the tools to pull this off. He simply had a can't-do or don't-want-to-do problem blocking his way. In some respects, that can be more frustrating than the child who is a can-doer but doesn't have enough tools in their toolbox yet. 

When he repeatedly acted like there was nothing on the planet he could ever write about, I reminded him that writers write about things they like to do and moments that happen to them and left him to it. When he dragged his feet about not knowing what to say about his pictures, I reminded him that writers look at their pictures for details and left him with the assumption that he'd figure it out. When he acted like there was no possible way he could spell the words, I reminded him, "If you can say it, you can write it," and off I went. I consistently refused to pamper or do the work for him (it was obvious that's what he really wanted from me) but instead repeatedly said, "You can do this." 

The point is that now he looks nothing like the writer I saw just a few weeks ago, so much so that observers in my room think he's one of my best writers. He finally believes me. I can't wait to tell him, "Remember those two teachers who visited last week? They were so impressed with what a great writer you are." Triumph changes everything. 

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Words Are Not For Hurting

Words are not for hurting. Some first graders need a bit of help with this concept. 

Think. (Oh how difficult this can be.) Are the words I'm thinking going to hurt? 

If so, then swallow those words.

If those words accidentally (or otherwise) come out, make it right.

That's where this chart comes in handy, because first graders (and many adults) don't know how to make it right. "Sorry" is not a one-way ticket to get out of trouble.

Charts like this don't automatically fix issues, but they sure provide a helpful scaffold that can be referred to all throughout the year (Hopefully they'll catch on sooner though, right?).

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