Wednesday, December 26, 2012


A semester is done, and inevitably change has occurred.  The thoughts, ideas, and organization of August have slipped into something new.  Does this happen to you?  Each year, it does to me.
In just the last couple of weeks I've instituted two major changes:  YOGA BALLS and TABLES.

Writers Workshop time
YOGA BALLS - I've been reading about their uses in classrooms for at least five years.  I've even said to more than one parent:  If you purchase a yoga ball for your child, I'll let them sit on it.  No one has ever taken me up on that.  So, two weeks before Christmas, I tell my class:  Let's get yoga balls, instead of buying me a gift, buy a gift for the classroom.  So far, we have 18 balls. Several were donated by our gym teacher, principal, and myself.  The rest were brought in by students.  I've set up a rotation, and everyone gets to sit on a yoga ball at least half the day!

TABLES - I've been wanting tables instead of desks for awhile.  They're a hot commodity in my building.  Several of us have told our principal that in the future, we'd like to move to tables.  She's receptive and open to it.  So, I approach her before break about making the switch now.   I'm known as an honest (ok, maybe blunt is the right word) and if I try tables out, teachers will know I will give all the pros and cons.  One 2/3 High Ability teacher is using them with success.  All the Kindergarten teachers have them and love them.
My principal said IF I could find the tables and convince the custodial staff to store my desks to go ahead!  Well, I literally had to beg, borrow, and steal (okay, not steal, but coercion was used) to find six tables, enough for all 24 of my students.  Then, I had to literally make my case to the custodian.  She originally said no.  Then we talked, toured the storage space and came up with a deal.   She could store some of the desks - I'd have to find a place for some of them. (By the way, I used my computer table as a classroom table, then put the six laptops on their own desk!)
Then Friday afternoon before break the students cleaned out their desks, and put everything in their cubby.  (I have cabinets in my room, with small cubbies that books can fit into.)  Then , I partnered everyone up.  Each pair will share a crate that will be kept at their table.  It will have their practice books, math books, folders, dry erase boards, and other essential items.  Each student will also keep their pencil box at their table. 
I'm optimistic about the change, although there are a few worries.  What if some don't deal well with such a shared space as a table?  I figure if need be I can always grab a desk or two back.

If there wasn't a winter storm advisory in my area, I'd post pictures of my new tables.  Alas, I'm staying put at home and enjoying the quiet at home with my kids.

Other changes are on the way too:  I'm working on my National Board Certification (Generalist - Middle Childhood) and I haven't started my entries yet.  I'm still planning.  In fact, I should be planning now, but will get to that soon.  I'm looking forward to tackling that challenge.  I've also committed to blogging every Wednesday - as a challenge with my school's Instructional Coach.  We've promised to push each other.  So, with change comes more writing for me!

I wish all of you a happy break!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Writer's Workshop

Ahhhh....first semester is winding down and the kids are wound up!  I've tried hard to maintain a level of learning with a level of fun.  I'm feeling ready for break, and if I'm not motivated, then I'm sure my students aren't!

So, instead of lesson planning, or working on my National Boards, as I told my husband I was doing when I kissed him and the kids by for the evening, I'm going to blog!  LUCKY YOU!  :)

I've decided to reflect on how my writing has changed this year.  And, it has changed.  In Indiana we've had all kinds of reforms, and one of them that trickled into the classroom this year was creating a personal goal to work on.  Mine was writing.  In fact, my entire team is working on this.

As I started the year, I decided to look at my day differently.   I now do writing first thing in the morning.  That is a change.  It makes me more purposeful in planning writing, and not to let my content time continually takeover my writing time.

A big plus also, was this resource I found online:    The First 30 Days: 5th Grade.
Even if you don't use it verbatim, it's very helpful to get your gears spinning on what you want to do.  For me, just having this as a safety net was a huge help!    My team also used it with success.

Also, I follow Katherine Sokolowski on Twitter.   She has great ideas.  I especially liked her Greatness Writing Activity I found on her Blog - Read, Write, Reflect.

I spent the first nine weeks building my Writer's Workshop.   Since then, we've published three pieces this nine weeks.  I spent several weeks on mini lessons for each one, then rounds of working and editing together.   We've written an editorial, a personal narrative essay, and a free choice writing piece with the goal of varying sentences.  Now, for some of you, this probably doesn't seem like much.  In the past, that was how many published pieces I'd have in a year.  Maybe.

I feel much more confident in my writing instruction.  I've even created rubrics WITH the class which is a big step for me.  I'm finding that it really does help them be more purposeful in their writing, and in turn, I'm more purposeful in my conferencing.   My secret for rubrics:  Print off ones you really like to have as a starting point.  Make sure you've done mini lessons on what you expect of the piece, THEN do the rubric whole group.  They know what you want from your focused mini lessons.  One time I even passed out sample rubrics to the class and asked what should be on our rubric!  Another great fact, it makes it easier to conference with students when I know exactly what I'm wanting them to do!  I keep a copy of the current rubric in the front of my binder for easy reference!

Here I'm meeting with Alex.  I have my conferring notebook out, he's reading his piece to me.  The post-its have 1-4 on it, and it's great for passing back with what they need to work on!
Next quarter I will be focusing on my National Board writings:  One expository piece and one narrative piece.  I've decided to do the expository on writing a literary review and the narrative on writing to a prompt as we prepare for our State Testing at the end of February.

Thanks for visiting my blog!  Feel feel to tweet or write questions in the comments section.  I hope your year has started off great and that you have a joyful holiday break!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hello, Again!

I'm sorry I've been away for so long!  I enjoy reflecting on my teaching and sharing ideas, but sometimes  I worry no one wants to hear it!
I've decided to not worry about those details, and write for me.  Hopefully you'll find something interesting to you!