Monthly Archives: May 2014

As the pages turn…

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Around this time last year, I posted about ending the year with a BOOK!

This year, I have found myself automatically gravitating toward books that leave the impact of making memories.  At first, it was completely subconscious – I chose a book I love and had not yet read aloud for one reason or the other.  And later that same day, I chose another book.  And the next day another… Looking at the selections – left on my easel for students to enjoy – I realized there was a theme.

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Thoughtlessly, I was plucking books from my shelf that captured my mood – nostalgic, retrospective, idealistic, hopeful, inspired, and that bittersweet feeling of finishing a chapter in life.  Our year is coming to a close – and while summer looms on the horizon filled with trips, family time, and a small moment to breathe – I’m not quite ready. My year has been challenging.  Challenging in all the ways you don’t appreciate at first.  Challenging in all the ways that exhaust you.  Challenging in all the ways that remind you why you love your job. When I’m left without words of my own, I turn to the words of others.

Our last books of school:

Our Tree Named Steve

Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Zwiebel and David Catrow

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The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster and Chris Raschka

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Someday by Eileen Spinelli and Rosie Winstead

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The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant and Stephen Gammel

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Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

For our end of year celebration:

(We read First Day Jitters on the first day)

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Last Day Blues by Julie Danneberg and Judy Love

And some I can’t help but read once again:

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Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell and David Catrow

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Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas

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Filed under Literacy, Mentor Text, Read Alouds, Uncategorized

Kindergarten and the Writing Process

“Writing might be magical, but it’s not magic. It’s a process, a rational series of decisions and steps that every writer makes and takes, no matter what the length, the deadline, even the genre.” – Donald Murray

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Say what you will about Lucy Calkins – especially since her mass marketed writing program has been released.  I hold firm to her (and my) foundational beliefs about the writing process.  All children can be writers. We meet writers where they are, capture them with great literature, and inspire them to find the writer within.

The not fun part is when the writing process gets “put upon” students.  It is presented as a series of “must do” steps just to feel that a piece is complete. It can be daunting and disheartening, especially to our youngest writers.

So how do we present these steps to our emerging readers and writers?  I prefer to model the different phases of the process.  You will not see a step by step guide to the process in my classroom.  There is not a poster of the process as a cycle (which is my preference – a piece of writing can always be returned to if the writer chooses).  I teach five and six year olds and the walls of our classroom are filled with anchor charts they have created. You may see a check list of things to remember.  You may see rubric of what our “best work” should look like.  But you will not see “THE WRITING PROCESS” laid out on our walls.

Throughout the year, we build on our writing.  We begin with labeling, progress to simple sentences, and finally (hopefully) we write multiple sentences with details.  We emphasize adding details – both to our drawings and our writing.  We use graphic organizers (brainstorming), 4 squares (rough drafts), iPad apps and paper (publishing).  We read our writing out loud – to a friend, to a teacher, to ourselves.  We check our sight words with the word wall.  We ask each other questions (editing/revising).

The last two weeks, we have been exploring the ocean and all it offers.  My students this year are very interested in animals and habitats.  We started a project this week that allows us to put two of our favorite things together – research and the iPad.  Using the “plan” below, students began researching an ocean animal of their choice.

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Students used library books, Pebble Go, Brainpop Jr, and other sources (each other) for research.  I modeled adding information to the plan after reading or listening to research.  We learn early on that copying every word from a book or the computer is a big NO NO.  We learn that we must use words from our own heads, not another author’s words.  If we write it, we need to be able to read it!  Not to mention that whole plagiarism thing!

Once the plan was complete, they showed a teacher what they had.  We had conferences about how to use the information in the best way. They could choose an app to make their project or actual paper.  Many students chose to create a paper book about their animal.  Either way, what they produced what meaningful to them – and they learned about the writing process along the way.

Here are some examples, still works in progress:

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This student opted to leave his planning page in his book.  He thought it would make a great table of contents!

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These are writings that I know the students will return to again and again as they learn more.  They have asked to not take them home yet – just in case! Wonderful authors in the making!

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Filed under iPads, Literacy, Lower Grades, Reading Workshop, Science, Technology, Writing Workshop

Progressively looking backward

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In the after school program today, I saw a sign that said 21 days left of school.  21!  It seems crazy to me that just 21 days are left with my kiddos. We have learned so much – and yet I feel we have so much left to do!

As often happens, I got caught up discussing a student that one of the after school workers helps each day.  We were wondering about all of this hard work and whether it was continuing to show benefit.  Some days he gets it, is into it, remembers it.  And others – he just doesn’t.  The road to working on sight words,etc. at home is paved with good intentions.  We are left wondering if the help he gets at school is all there is for him, and so we continue to squeeze in every extra second we can.  Both the worker and I have a concern for him and his success – which is so nice!

Is this child where he should be in the fast track of kindergarten these days?  Not exactly.  I worry for him so much in first grade next year.  I worry if will he feel successful.  Will he struggle?  Will he remember anything from kindergarten?  Before even speaking to the worker this afternoon, I had my own moment earlier in the day.  It was writing time and I am encouraging more independence (he has a behavior plan just for independence)  and more details.  We were struggling to pull ideas from his head and put them through his pencil.  Finally, I sent him off on his own.  He returned with one legible sentence that he could read and one string of letters.  The child just handed the paper to me and shrugged.  The kind of shrug that says – ok, this is all you’re getting.  He walked away and I just stared at the paper.

Did I feel frustration?  Yes!  We have worked so hard all year on using sounds and sight words when writing. The worry for him washed over me.  Then the memory of him from the beginning of the year smacked me.  When he entered kindergarten, he could not hold a pencil or crayon.  He did not recognize, spell, or write his own name.  And yet, he just gave me a paper with his name and 1 whole sentence that he could read.  This was success!  Not failure!

Writing Sample September (tracing highlighted words)

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His independent sample from today

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The pressures of teaching today can try rob of us of true victories in our classrooms.  The miles that our students have already run can be overshadowed by the miles left to go.  The light at the end of the tunnel becomes the focus – while the flashes of light along the way go unnoticed.

Our year is progressing on – and yet I’m wanting to look backward and remember where we all started.  Many of my students have made immeasurable leaps and bonds – emotionally and academically.  There may not be an assessment for that, but I do have my memories.

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