Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Key

This morning as I was scrolling through the news online, I came across a story about Detroit, a place that I spent the first ten years of my life. The article went on to talk about a house from Detroit that is going to be on the show "This Old House." What I found fascinating were the before pictures.  Although the house was in shambles on the inside, you could see the history.  You could see that one time it belonged to a family and was loved. It reminded me of the house I grew up in on Three Mile Drive and brought back a flood of memories.

I remember the small pond my father built in the backyard that was home to a lot of goldfish.

I remember watering my sister in her playpen, so she would grow like the flowers and could play with me.

I remember building an eight foot tall snowman with a yellow hat in the backyard on a rare snow day.

I remember the birthday parties my mother used to throw, making me feel extremely special.

I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my sisters trading our Halloween candy.

I remember opening presents on Christmas morning while a fire burned in the fireplace.

I remember the stain glass windows in the living room that would flood the floor with an array of colors.

I remember the bedrooms upstairs with the long walk in closets where my sisters and I would play.

I remember my mother studying for the bar exam while I was in second grade showing me what hard work looked like.

I remember the character of the house with original glass windows, wood molding, and natural wood floors.

And I remember the key. The one I took after the house was long abandon like so many of them in Detroit.

This key is the connection to my childhood and all those memories from long ago.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Sharing the Journey

I selfishly decided to try the slice of life challenge for the first time because I needed a push to get back into writing. I was pretty excited and challenged my students to join me too. Instead of blogging they are doing it the old fashion way: with paper and pencil. For them, there are incentives, just like for me. I have a steady amount of kids who have written every single day so far! And that makes my heart smile.

Each morning we do a slice check in where the students come see me, tell me what they wrote about the day before, then I keep track of their writing on a chart that is up in the classroom. They always check to make sure that I wrote and more times than not, I share my writing with them. I have been trying to step out of my comfort zone and try various writing techniques that I have noticed on the bloggers that I comment on.

By sharing my writing, I have introduced all different forms of poetry. And my once we don't get poetry kids, are writing poetry all the time. Today I shared my post from yesterday about student-led conferences. It had repetition, showed what I observed during this, and introduced found poems.

My students are familiar with black-out poetry but this was different. I shared the process I went through to produce the blog post. I talked about my struggles with what I wanted to stand out, how I had to rearrange my sentences to create the found poem, and I had to really think. I did a lot of staring at my screen, typing, deleting, and retyping.  I know they appreciated what I had to say about them, and they thought the found poem was really neat.

My students are writers. They write because they like to. They write because I don't grade or judge any writing in their writer's notebook. Their notebook is their safe place. They can write however they want. Follow rules. Not follow rules. They experiment and have voice. I wonder how many of them will step out of their comfort zone this weekend and try a found poem.

If I had to gather, I would say a lot because they are risk takers. And they LOVE to write.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Taking Ownership

Spring conferences. I wasn't sure what to expect as this year they were student led. I have never done these before but went in with an open mind. I LOVED them.

I loved the relaxed atmosphere around the room because there wasn't a set time the students needed to be there.

I loved watching the students take ownership of their learning as they explained their strengths and weaknesses.

I loved listening to the conversations between parent and student as parents asked thoughtful questions, making their child think.

I loved the explanations the students gave in response to those questions.

I loved when the students helped their parents understand the areas they are struggling with.

I loved the plans they started to create to turn those struggles into strengths.

I loved  all the hard work we did with our data binders as it gave their work meaning.

I loved being able to be there for the students if they needed my guidance.

I loved how poised and versed the students were with their learning.

I loved when the students went off the agenda and just shared everything they were proud of.

I loved everything about them.

But most importantly, I loved just sitting back and witnessing the interaction between parent and child.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Curious Incident

I love art. I always have. Even when I thought I was going to fail school because I didn't get it, art saved me. Today I had the opportunity to preview the artwork that my fifth grade social studies students created for the Broadway show, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime at the Wharton Center in East Lansing, Michigan. The program, Eye for Broadway, encourages schools to create art pieces for various Broadway shows throughout the year. This is our fifth year of participating. I try to pick shows where I can incorporate social studies into the curriculum. But this year, I chose Curious Incident because I wanted my students to be exposed to the autism spectrum. Our special education teacher came and talked to all 82 fifth graders and educated them on the autism spectrum. Then after a brief summary of the book at a fifth grade level, these students created 29 amazing pieces of art. Today, I will let my slice be a visual representation.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

At the Moment...

It's 8:45 and here is what I can tell you at this moment:

  1.  I am tired. 
  2.  I almost  forgot to write my slice today.
  3.  I am tired.
  4.  I have snapshot writing to comment on.
  5.  I am tired.
  6.  I have 82 social studies recipe projects to correct by the morning. 
  7.  I am tired.
  8.  Conferences are on Thursday.
  9. I am tired. 
  10. I worked my other job tonight.
  11. I am tired. 
  12. The kids are asleep.
  13. They were tired. 
  14. I am wondering where I might find my motivation to stay awake for a few more hours. 
  15. I am tired. 
  16. Five in the morning comes early.
  17. I am tired. 
  18. I just don't want to do anything.
Because, you know, I am tired. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Blood on the River

I teach ELA to my homeroom and social studies to all three sections of fifth grade. One of my favorite things to do during social studies is read to my students. I always read some type of historical fiction novel that pertains to what I am teaching them at the time. Last week we started learning about the 13 colonies, and I started reading my absolute favorite historical fiction book of all time Blood on the River. If you aren't familiar with the book, it is about the founding of Jamestown. Elisa Carbone is so incredibly accurate that you would think it was non-fiction.

Today I read chapter six. It is getting so good, that at this point, the kids are hooked. And as I finished reading "When I see what it is, my mouth goes dry: a wooden frame, a rope hanging from the highest beam, a noose tied in the rope. Master Wingfield has not forgotten his promise to hang Captain Smith" (46), I heard one student tell another, "I love this book."


This is why I teach.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Collaboration

Once a month I have the opportunity to meet with an amazing group of educators. We meet either in person or in a google hangout. We usually flip flop months and tonight, we met in person. Most of us teach in different districts and at different levels, so it is wonderful to hear what everyone is doing.  We share the things we are doing in our classrooms, generate ideas and welcome feedback. Based on a conversation tonight, I came home and tweaked my reading and writing plans for the week. I appreciate being able to be a part of this community because although we are all teachers, we are also students.