#SOL17 Day #30

A Day in the Life of a Fifth Grade Class

Slicing every day in Mach!!

Is it Friday, yet?
Phew! What a week!
Lots of good stuff happening!

Here’s a glimpse into a day in the life of a fifth grade class:

  • My students are knee-deep into their PYP-IB Exhibition of Learning projects. They love this time of the day because it’s an opportunity to work in groups on topics of interest, such as: homelessness/joblessness, bullying, orphans, and terrorism.
  • My students joyfully shared their memoirs with a partner. This was our end-of-unit celebration. Although it required little preparation, it was a hit! In fact, one group of three asked for more time because one student hadn’t had time to share his memoir. “But, I want to listen to Bruce’s memoir,” piped up Isabela. And, of course, I couldn’t say, no. 😊
  • My students struggled with an order of operations problem in math; they all made the same mistake – an easy one to fix.
  • My students didn’t want me to stop reading Number the Stars. They sensed we’re at a turning point in the story, even if they couldn’t quite articulate it in so many words.
  • My students engaged in lively discussions in their historical fiction book clubs.

I’m ready for another day. It’s Friday.

#SOL17 Day #29

It’s Almost April

Slicing every day in March!!

It’s almost April.
After that, the year will rush by
in a whir.
Summer days get closer and closer.
Keeping students’ attention
on learning
will be hard.

Progress reports due in five days.
Didn’t we just do these?
Two stars and a wish.
Compliments and areas for growth.
Dear Student…

Two days away from the final day of the #SOL17 March Challenge.
I enjoyed slicing this year.
Not like in other years.
Late night slicer.
Never felt pressured.
2 hours and 25 minutes till posting closes for today.

Three days shy of April Fool’s Day.
A Saturday.
I’m glad.
Accreditation visit on Monday.
5 days away.

Twelve days until Spring Break.
Late this year.
My birthday comes at the tail end of our break.

Seventeen days until my birthday.
An important decision needs to be made.

#SOL17 Day #28

Mini Lessons

Slicing every day in March!!


Sometimes, I plan too many teaching points for one lesson. For example, instead of focusing on one strategy that students need in order to become more proficient readers and writers, I try to teach several strategies at the same time. 

Sometimes, I stretch out a teaching point beyond the 10- or 12-minute time limit I’ve given myself because I worry that my mini lesson wasn’t enough or my students won’t have understood what I intended to teach. So, sometimes, I beat the lesson to a pulp one too many times, or forget to have the kids practice the lesson before they go off to read or write. (Asking students to practice a lesson after you teach it, with you right there to observe and help guide students through the process, is very effective. Try not to skip this step!)  

Here’s an example of a mini lesson that lasted less than 10 minutes and resulted in better learning.

My students are in the second round of historical fiction book clubs. In a couple of weeks, we will start a unit on fantasy book clubs. I want them to get better at preparing for a book club meeting. They are not yet comfortable doing this and the sticky notes they are selecting don’t lead to rich conversations. 

When Kathy Collins was at my school a few weeks ago, she modeled a lesson about how to select an interesting idea from the sticky note jots students do while they are reading. She showed students how to write a few sentences more about their initial idea so that they can generate rich conversations about their books.

When I’ve collected these sticky notes, I’ve noticed that the thinking kids are documenting is shallow and noncommittal. 

So, today I read a few pages of our current read aloud novel, Number the Stars, and asked kids to use a symbol (icon, emoji that made sense to them, or one from the list I shared with them) to jot down their thinking as I read the text aloud. Then, I asked students to select one of these thoughts and extend their thinking by writing a few more sentences. I scanned their responses and, overall, the quality of their thinking was better. 

Tomorrow we’re going to try this again with a few more pages from the same chapter. Then, I’ll ask my students to choose one sticky note from that chapter to keep writing on. I’m going to suggest the following sentence stems to help kids get started:

  • Maybe what’s happening here is..
  • I think…
  • My thought about this is… 
  • If…then…

After that, I’m going to pair students so they can engage in partner conversations; this would serve well as practice for their next book club meeting on Thursday.


If you have any suggestions for helping students have more effective book club conversations, please a comment below. Thanks!




Uncategorized

Without my laptop…

Slicing every day in March!!

Today I forgot my school laptop at home.
I had to get to school before the 7:00 am “pico y placa” restrictions, based on my license plate, went into effect. It wasn’t until I got to school that I realized that the feeling that something-was-missing when I walked out the door was because something was missing!

Not having my laptop proved interesting.
I had to borrow an iPad from the tech office for the day.
For those things I couldn’t do on the iPad, I used my phone.
Not ideal either way.

This experience made me realize how dependent I’ve become on computers to accomplish work at school.

Without my laptop, I couldn’t use my document camera.
Without my document camera, I couldn’t project the set of math problem solving strategies and some practice problems I had planned on doing with my students.
Without the use of the projector, I had to write everything on charts.

Without my laptop, I couldn’t access any of my documents that weren’t on Google Drive.
Without my laptop, I couldn’t access my personal gmail account on the iPad if I had my school gmail account open.
Without my laptop, I couldn’t print anything, which may not have been all that bad.
Still, I do need to print sometimes.

Without my laptop, I could greet my students at the door instead of from my desk.

Without my laptop, I didn’t have access to some cool math sites I’d found over the weekend.

Without my laptop, I had to shift around my plans for the day.

I definitely won’t forget my laptop tomorrow!

#DigiLitSunday · #SOL17 Day #26

My Burning Question(s)

Slicing every day in March!!
#DigiLitSunday

+Margaret Simon has challenged #DigiLitSunday bloggers to think about this: what is your burning question?

My first response? I don’t have just one burning question. I have many burning questions. There is so much that I still don’t know even though I’ve been teaching for many years. You’d think that I would have things pretty clear by now – structures, routines, and lessons established in my head and replicated from year to year. But, of course, the fact that every year we have a new group of students entrusted to our care means that, while some things can stay the same, many things cannot. We have to reinvent our classrooms from year to year to meet the strengths and needs of our students.  

When I reflect on this prompt, I invariably start with the should know’s and don’t know’s before coming up with burning questions. Although I’m sure that’s not where this question was hoping to take us, I feel compelled to get those out of the way first. So, here it goes…

I should know how to structure writing and reading workshop so that I don’t have to think about this anew at the beginning of the school year. (Burning question: how can I use my writer’s notebook to help students better use theirs?)

I should know how to set up stations in math so that they run smoothly all the time. (Burning question: what purpose do math stations serve and how can I keep them running smoothly from week to week without too much maintenance on my part? Well, maybe that was two questions.)

I should know how to stay focused on what’s important for students’ learning without getting sidetracked by the latest mandates. (Burning question: how can I put mandates into perspective so that I don’t lose focus about what my students truly need to grow as learners, thinkers and innovators?

I should know what I know and don’t know. (Burning question: how can I narrow down my professional learning focus to one area at a time and do that well before moving on to something else?)

But, I don’t think it’s about a universal idea of knowing and not knowing. The prompt that +Margaret Simon has teased me with is about the questions, that emerge from listening and getting to know a new group of students throughout the year. These questions, although similar from year to year, reflect the students that are in my class right now. 

So, another burning question that has emerged from this rumination is:  how can I guide this group of students to engage with learning this year? 

  • How can I tap into the interests of this group of students through the topics I am required to teach during the year? 
  • How can I start with the interests, expertise and concerns of this group of students first and stick to those despite the multiple demands on my time and energy?
  • How can I convince this group of students that math is another lens from which to view, explore and understand the world, in much the same way that reading and writing allows us to do this? 
  • How can I figure out ways to effectively weave the interests, expertise and concerns of this group of students through what we’re learning…without getting derailed by demands, mandates and outside issues?
  • How do I keep my focus on the students that are with me right now?

I do know why all of this is important. I even know how to do this successfully (I’ve had many experiences to fall back on), yet I get sidetracked by external distractions that, in the large scheme of things, don’t matter for my particular group of students in any given year. 

I do know what works and when I’m not sure, I can engage in research about what to do to help students (and me!) learn better. 


Wow! That prompt took me down a long-winded path to arrive at a response that feels right for this moment. There is always more. 
#SOL17 Day #25

Today I slept in…

Slicing every day in March!!

Today, I slept in.

I didn’t set my (two) alarm(s).
I didn’t rush out of bed to do anything.
I just rested for a while and watched the sky get lighter and lighter.
I had hushed conversations with my husband; my son was still asleep.

Today, I slept in. 
I contemplated potential changes in my life.
Possible moves, professional and personal.
New challenges.
The unknown.

Today, I slept in.
Change used to scare me.
I never wanted to leave the Bay Area in California.
I never wanted to live anywhere but there.

Today, I slept in.
I thought Ecuador would be our last stop for a long time..the first time.
Then, we went to Canada.
And, it seemed like we would stay there forever.
Well, six years can seem like forever.
But, then we decided it was time to return to Ecuador.
Build our dream house, which we did.
Go back to a school I loved, which I did.

Today, I slept in.
The future feels uncertain again.
Anything is possible.
Even no change is possible.
But, I’m not worried.
At least, I try not to worry…too much.

Today, I slept in.
Retirement is NOT in my immediate future.
I love what I do.
I wouldn’t want to do anything else.

Today I slept in.
 
#SOL17 Day #24

Questions

Slicing every day in March!!


Today’s post is short and sweet because I just got back from a night of playing Bunko with friends. 

I share some questions I’m grappling with in my classroom. 

No answers. 

Just questions.

(1) What purpose do math stations serve in my classroom?

(2) How can I continue to engage writers without overwhelming them or me?

(3) How can I determine if my tangled readers are learning to be better readers from the books they choose to read?

(4) How can I strike a balance between student choice and making sure my students learn what they need to learn at any given time?

(5) Am I demanding too much from my students?


As I find responses and solutions to these issues, I will post some ideas on my blog.

Any thoughts are more than welcomed!