SDAWP Reunion

This morning, my SDAWP (San Diego Area Writing Project) cohort had a reunion since finishing up our Summer Institute back in July.  It was great to see everyone again and to catch up with each other’s lives.  Then, the real work began.  Our opening writing prompt asked us to tell how the Summer Institute impacted our pedagogy and/or us personally.  I realized that going through SI has connected me to other educators, authors, etc. through social media.  I mentioned in my writing that I would have never ventured into the world of Twitter or the blogosphere if it weren’t for my involvement with the SI.  I realized that I do not need to be isolated within the confines of my classroom walls.  I can learn about what other people are doing in theirs, and I can share what I am doing in mine.  Kim Douillard, director of SDAWP, helped me realize that my tweets and blogs are not only read by the few followers I have, but they go beyond.  People who like what they read can retweet to their followers and so on and so on.  One of the reasons why I did not want to even participate in social media is because I thought I had nothing valuable to say or offer.  I always felt no one else would want to know about my learnings or observations, but that is not true.  I have learned that something I do can inspire someone else.

The second way that SI has affected me is that I realize I have leadership potential.  I have a new-found confidence.  As a result of my learnings, I decided to go for my administrative credential.  The SI challenged me to think about how I can affect change.  What can I do to change the world?  That to me is exciting.

Interestingly enough, the last part of our morning was spent on talking about leadership.  What does it mean to be a leader?  Can anyone be one?  How important is good leadership?  We had awesome discussions in small groups and whole group.

I really enjoyed the morning.  It was just what I needed to focus me on my goals.  It has allowed me to rethink what I am doing in the classroom.  It has reminded me that it is okay to take risks.  Be fearless and not fearful.  It was just the kick in the pants that I needed to get me going again.  I feel motivated and energized.  Thanks SDAWP!

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Morning Routine

At the beginning of the month, my friend Kim, posed a question on her blog post Good Morning.  She asked, “What says good morning to you?”  Then, yesterday in my class it was Wonder Wednesday.  My class and I visit the website Wonderopolis.  Each day the site posts a Wonder of the Day.  My students and I read about the wonder and then we respond to it in our writing journals.  In any case, I did not like the wonder for this day, so I chose a different one from the site’s archive.  The one I selected was about fruit.  The wonder asked, “Are all fruits juicy?’  It was a great one to think about because it not only talked about fruit and juice, but it talked about morning routines.  I immediately connected it to my friend, Kim’s, blog.  So, I am writing about what my morning routine looks like on most days and what says good morning to me.

Most days I get up early to swim or run before work.  When I get up it is still dark outside.  It can be a bit scary, but then I often see the same people running or walking at the same time I do.  Here is what it looks like at the pool where I swim sometimes and the view from the top of the hill where I turn around to head back home on my morning walk/run.

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I told you it was dark!  When I get home, I have just enough time to shower, dress, and get myself to work.  But first, I make my morning cup of coffee.

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Some mornings I am part of a carpool that goes to the middle school where my daughter attends.  My job is to pick kids up two times a week and deliver them to school before the bell rings.  Then, I can finally head to work.  I actually enjoy getting to work because it gives me a chance to relax, meditate, and get myself together before my students arrive.  With three children trying to get off to school, mornings can be hectic at my house.  Getting to work means, I can actually sit down and eat my breakfast.

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Well, that’s it for my morning routine.  I am glad to share the images of what says good morning to me with all of you.  🙂

Celebrating National Day on Writing with Students

As I posted yesterday, National Day on Writing was on Sunday, October 20th.  I decided to celebrate with my students today.  We spent the majority of our morning writing.  We started off the day in the computer lab writing stories.

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When we returned to the classroom, we compared upstanders to bystanders.  Earlier in the year, I had read the book, The Recess Queen, by Alexis O’Neill.  My students were able to understand the difference between upstanders and bystanders.  So, I read the book, The Juice Box Bully, by Bob Sornson and Maria Dismondy.  It’s a great story about how students help a new student acclimate to the class.  They all make a promise to be helpful and respectful even when someone is making poor choices.  My students wrote letters to the bully of the story giving him tips and advice on how to make the correct choices.  I was happy that my writing was also tied in to our Red Ribbon Week celebration.  During Red Ribbon Week we focus on having good character.  Here’s a picture of my students writing their letters.

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Finally, my students participated in a chalk talk protocol.  It’s funny because we don’t use chalk and we don’t talk during this activity. Earlier in the day, I had a parent helper hang up ten pieces of chart paper that had a problem in the middle of it.

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My students were able to write solutions to the problems on the chart paper.  They were also able to comment on other students’ comments.  My students completed this activity without any talking.  We definitely used writing to connect with each other.  After the activity, I debriefed with my students.  They said they enjoyed this protocol.  Everyone had a chance to share their ideas in a nonthreatening way.  I will definitely do this activity again.

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All in all I would say this was a very enjoyable National Day on Writing.  I can’t wait for next year!  However, I am going to remember to write to connect all year long.  🙂

National Day on Writing

Happy National Day on Writing.  Sunday, October 20, is the National Council of Teachers of English fifth annual National Day on Writing.  Although it’s the fifth annual day, this is my first year participating.  Since it falls on a Sunday, I have decided to celebrate with my second grade students on Monday.  Click on this link for more information about the National Day on Wriitng.

The NCTE theme this year is writing to connect (#write2connect).  They encourage us to think about all the ways we use writing to connect with others.  So, I started to think about all the ways I use writing to communicate.  I realized that I use writing to communicate everyday.  Some of my writing is formal.  For example, I just started work on earning my administrative credential.  There are a lot of on-line assignments I need to complete.  Many of the assignments need to be formally written.  There are formating rules that need to be adhered to and there are topics that need to be addressed.  There is always a grade or score tied in with this type of formal writing.

I also do a lot of informal writing.  Not a day goes by where I don’t email someone.  It could be parents of students, coworkers, friends, or family members.  In fact, I email more than I actually talk on the phone.  I don’t know if that is a good or bad thing.  But, it is what it is.  I still think that talking face to face or phone to phone is best.  However, I understand that email is a necessary tool in my every day life.

Just like I use email every day, the same holds true for another example of informal writing.  That would be texting.  Of course, I don’t do this while driving.  And most times, I have my ringer/alert tone set to mute.  So, I don’t always know when I am getting a text.  It is frustrating to many of my friends because this is one of the ways they like to communicate with me.

Thanks to the San Diego Area Writing Project (SDAWP) I have my own Twitter account.  If it wasn’t for SDAWP I don’t think I would even think about joining Twitter.  However, I follow many of my writing heroes like Jeff Anderson, Kelly Gallagher, Regie Routman, Ralph Fletcher, and Donalyn Miller.  I also follow my favorite authors like Sharon Creech, Judy Blume, Georgia Heard, and Patricia Polacco.  I can also keep up with my SDAWP friends and share resources.  I did not realize that Twitter could be a valuable tool.  I get a tremendous amount of great ideas from educators everywhere.  Twitter allowed me to dip my big toe into the pool of social media.  As a result, I am also on Instagram, and I have this blog.  Thanks, Kim (SDAWP Director), for giving me a little nudge!  🙂

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Writing is something I do every day.  On Monday, I hope to get that point across to my second graders.  Writing is not just something you do in school.  Writing is everywhere.

Letting Go

Yesterday, my class released two of our Monarch butterflies.  We had just finished watching a short video on the migration of the Monarch butterfly.  We learned that they migrate to the same place in Mexico when the weather gets colder.  My students decided that it would be best to let the butterflies make that journey to Mexico.

We walked out to an area of the school known as the reading garden.  It was built in honor of a teacher who had passed away a few years ago.  It is a beautiful spot with benches and flowering plants.  My students sat quietly while I undid the clasps that held the net over our butterfly habitat.  There was a loud cheer when the butterflies finally made their way out into the open air.  We had attracted quite a crowd.  There were several students who were not in my class watching the release take place.

It was a sweet moment.  I couldn’t help but think of all the times I just had to let go.  I like to think that I can take on many different tasks all at once.  I make myself crazy trying to keep up with everything.  Since I started my journey towards my administrative credential, I have had to let go of a few things.  I feel bad about it, but I know in the long-run it is for the best.  I have learned that it can be difficult to make tough decisions.  But, with every decision there is peace.

It Just Takes Time

Today, my lesson plans just went out the window.  We were met with the excitement that one of our caterpillars emerged from its chrysalis over the weekend.  When the students came in this morning, they noticed it immediately.  The classroom was all a-buzz over the development.  They were very excited.

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Later that morning, we were reading our National Geographic Explorer magazine.  The story we were reading was about animals who use their colors to communicate.  We just finished reading about the mandarinfish.  The mandarinfish uses its colors to warn predators to stay away.  Its colors tell predators that he is not very tasty.  In fact, if a predator were to eat the mandarinfish, it could be its last meal.  That is because mandarinfish are poisonous.

I tried to connect this fact to one that we had learned about our Monarch butterflies.  We learned that the Monarch butterfly also uses its colors to warn predators that it is not very tasty.  It was at this particular moment when the second of our butterflies decided to emerge from its chrysalis.  One of my students raised his hand and said, “The butterfly is coming out!”  We all hurried over to our butterfly habitat.  I grabbed my iPad and filmed the whole thing.  You should have heard the excitement in my classroom when this happened.  It was amazing.  And, I got the whole thing on video!

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We noticed how the new butterfly’s wings were not very big at all. . . compared to the first one.  We noticed how huge the butterfly’s abdomen was.  That’s because it needed to get the blood circulating out towards its wings.  This whole thing happened right before recess.  When we returned from recess, the wings had expanded.  I used this time to have the kids talk and write about what they observed and noticed.

Later that evening, I got to thinking how things happen in their own time.  After a rocky start to the school year, my students are finally getting themselves together.  Expectations are being met.  Behavior is improving.  Just like a caterpillar emerges from its chrysalis when it is ready, the same holds true for my students.  By the end of the year, I hope they emerge as capable third graders.  Not all students will get there at the same time.  Until then, I will practice patience and nurture their development as we go through the year.

Mentor Text Challenge #3 Who Hops?

This month the mentor text I would like to share is Who Hops? by Katie Davis.  The book itself follows a predictable pattern.

Who hops?  Frogs hop.  Rabbits hop.  Kangaroos hop.  Cows hop.  No they don’t!  Cows moo and give milk, but they don’t hop!

The text goes on to ask the reader who flies, slithers, swims, and crawls.  Each section following the same basic pattern by giving examples of animals who do that action and then suggesting an animal who doesn’t do that action.

I have been able to use this text to talk about the different types of sentences there are, i.e. declarative, exclamatory, and interrogative.  I have also used the text to talk about sentence structure.  Since the sentences here are simple, we were able to notice that a sentence must have a person or thing doing an action.  I will get into “actionless” verbs a bit later.  We also talked about how we could stretch out the simple sentence by using a prepositional phrase.  However, I am not requiring my students to know what prepositions are.  In fact, one of my students came up with the term “sentence stretcher” as a definition for what a preposition does.  We also played around with placing the sentence stretcher at the beginning of the sentence to see how that changes things.

There were so many things I could do with this one book.  I go to it every year when I want my students to understand what sentences are and how we can add detail to our sentences.  Right now, I am wondering if my students could use this frame to demonstrate what they know about something we are learning about in science or math.  Hmmm.  There are many possibilities.