Monday, November 28, 2011

I am Lovin' Nicholas Sparks!

       Do you have a favorite author that is just for you?  I love Eve Bunting for school and Debbie Miller for school and countless others . . . but when I think about reading that is just for me I think of Nicholas Sparks.  I love his books!  I have been hooked since I accidentally stumbled upon The Notebook one summer at the beach back in high school.  I love that his books are romantic (but not graphic).  I love that his books are predictable-but in a good way.  I love that he has a new book every year just in time for my birthday.  My wonderful hubby got me the newest Nicholas Sparks book, The Best of Me for my birthday back in October but school had been so busy that I had not had a chance to pick up my book.  It just sat sadly on my nightstand waiting to be opened.  Then over this long Thanksgiving break I finally had my chance to read my new book and it was well worth the wait!  If you like romantic novels let me encourage you to check out Nicholas Sparks, he never disappoints me.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Perfect Lessons

        Something else that I am so thankful for are pefect lessons.  Have you ever planned out a lesson and thought this is it.  This is perfect.  The kids will definitely get this. And then they didn't?  Hopefully this has not happened too often.  Well this in NOT what happened to me last Wednesday.  It is really hard to believe that a whole week has already gone by.  Anyway I digress.  Like many of you we have a new evaluation system in my district (CAST) and it has everyone a little anxious, mostly because it is new.  Well I was planning out my lesson and I decided to teach the comprehension strategy of questioning.  I love Debbie Miller and she has a chapter on questioning in her book Reading with Meaning so I think this is a great start.  I copy her first lesson idea and even use the book Grandfather Twilight like she suggests.  My students do well with the whole concept of good readers need to stop and ask questions while they read.  So I decide to introduce the QAR question stems with my students one type at a time.  We are able to get through "Right There" and "Think and Search" questions before my observation.  So the question type that I will teach for my formal observation (with the principal) is "Author and You" questions.  These are definitely higher level so that's great!  I choose to read Cynthisa Rylant's The Bird House, (also a suggested text of Debbie Miller) which turned out to be the perfect book because there are lots of natural places to ask all types of questions, plus it's not too long, and even better it is a rather obscure book so no one except me has ever read it before.  The day of the observation my class was on it!  They gave AWESOME responses (I swear I didn't give them the answers ahead of time or pay them or anything-although it almost seemed like it). They worked in partners after the mini lesson for more practice-then one group shared with the class, then they read independently for more practice-then shared again.  Even my guided reading group was fabulous.  Then for the closing and this was priceless.  My students gave PERFECT answers to "How can I use the questioning strategy to be a better reader?"  At the end of my lesson I was floating on cloud nine.  Not only had my students fully grasped the type of questioning that we were working on but also after only three lessons working with the questioning strategy they could tell me why it was important to ask questions while they read.  Of course it didn't hurt that the principal saw the whole thing.  : ) 
        So I say all that to say don't lose heart.  Our job is hard-but no on ever said it was going to be easy they just said that it would be worth it!  I also wanted to share with you the QUESTION STEMS, from QAR that I used to help my students through the questioning strategy just in case you are interested in using them with your students.  They were extremely helpful for the students to have access to when they were asked to ask both themselves and a partner questions.  Until next time . . .

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I am so Thankful!

        First let me say that I am so thankful for my class this year.  I have an awesome group of kids that are sweet to one another (and to me) and work hard.  This time of year, right before the Christmas craziness I like to really count my blessings and believe me they are numerous.  That all being said I want to tell you about an activity that we did today . . .
        Doris Young, from Third Grade Thinkers (if you don't know about her blog I would definitely check it out) blogged about some poetry that her kids wrote back on October 26th.  They wrote poems about fall and put them on pumpkins and had a poetry patch-too cute!!!  So I loved the idea and borrowed it.  Today we worked on thanksgiving poems.  We followed the same format that Doris Young outlines in her blog.  You start with Thanksgiving is . . . then the students think about a noun that reminds them of their topic and an adjective that describes their noun and then a verb (with -ing) that also goes along with the noun.  A fantastic review of those parts of speech : )
        Below you will see a couple of pictures from my kiddos' poems today.

        I wish I would have gotten pictures of all of the poems they were so cute!  I have to say though my favorite part of this entire activity was that one of my students asked if we could write poetry for every holiday-LOVE it!!!  So I think we will   : )

Saturday, November 19, 2011

OREO Writing

        This is an oldie-but a goodie so I thought that I would share.  My students and I just finished up persuasive writing and the strategy that I taught my students to make sure that they had each of the elements from the writing standard is OREO. 
        We of course went through the writing process beginning with brainstorming all the different ideas that we had opinions about, our favorite pet, holiday, place to go, etc . .  Then I gave each student a planning sheet that was broken into sections for them to write out their opinion and the reasons and details that matched/supported that opinion.  After planning on their own, checking with a peer and then checking with me everyone was ready to start writing their first drafts.
        It was modeled that we start our essays with our opinion (O), we also included an exciting beginning to make the reader want to read our essays.  Next we took each of the reasons (R) that we thought of and our explanation/examples (E) and wrote a separate paragraph for each.  Finally we wrapped up our essays but restating our opinion (O) but in a different way and talking to our reader.  Ta da OREO!  (O=opinion, R=reasons, E=explanations/examples, and O=opinion).
        ***On a side note I decided to have my students publish their essays into tri-fold brochures-super cute!  I wish I would have brought one home.  I will try to make sure I do that on Monday, (although I am sure you can imagine what they look like).  During our publishing celebration each student was given the opportunity to share his/her persuasive essay and we ate OREOs while we listened.  YUMMY!!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Another Test

       OK, I saw this cartoon over at Third Grade Thinkers and just had to blog about it myself.

        Sadly, this is where I feel that we are in education today.  We test our students multiple times during the year to find out if they are ready for THE test.  More often than not I feel that if we just taught our students they would perform on THE test.  It is funny, it's almost like "they" think that all of this testing makes our students better learners and therefore better test takers and maybe it does, but I highly doubt it.  I think that good teaching makes better learners and because of that they are better test takers.  Until the "powers that be" figure it out I will continue to test my students multiple times a year and then use that data to inform my instructional decisions.