Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Success! I Just Learned Something New!

Sometimes I forget that my students are learning something for the first time - and just how hard that can be! No wonder they make silly mistakes; the process of learning something totally new can be really overwhelming so we can't see the forest through the trees. I am always grateful for moments in my own life when I am reminded of this fact.

One of these moments happened today. I went to turn on the garbage disposal and I got nothing but a humming noise. I was so frustrated! Eventually, (I have three kids so nothing happens right away) I made it to the computer and googled it (and may I just say - what did people do before the Internet!?!). I found instructions, thought about them for a while, followed them - and guess who fixed the garbage disposal all by herself?!

I am usually the fix-it person in our house. Not because I am any more mechanically inclined than my husband, but because I have the motivation to figure things out (I am the one home most of the time). I also know how to find the information I need. I think that a person (or a student) with motivation and an understanding of how to get the information they need can learn anything!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Love and Logic Triumphs

I just finished reading Teaching with Love and Logic by Jim Fay and David Funk, and once again (it always happens after I finish a particularly inspiring book) I can't wait to get to school and put it into action.

However, I don't have to wait until school starts to benefit from Love and Logic. I have three little ones - and I do mean little ones. My oldest is five and my youngest turns two in August so there is plenty of drama in our house. Lots of opportunities for power struggles.

The first time I used Love and Logic at home my husband thought I was some kind of magician. He had been trying to put our girls to bed - not an easy thing :). I walked in when he was yelling that if they didn't go to bed right away there would be no fun tomorrow. I wasn't judging - I know I have said things like that before, but fresh off my latest study of Love and Logic I was ready to try some new ideas.

The first thing I did was start asking lots of questions - "Would you like to read a book first or brush your teeth first? Would you like to brush your teeth in your bathroom or my bathroom? Would you like me to carry you on my back or on my shoulders? Do you want purple pajamas or blue pajamas?" etc...

Well, once the power struggle was gone the girls were easy! I had them happily in bed within 15 minutes of taking over. Needless to say, I am now on permanent bed duty :).

I had another Love and Logic miracle this afternoon after swimming. My oldest daughter hates pulling shirts and dresses over her head - she is always afraid she will get stuck and often, when she panics, she does. I brought her a dress that I thought she would be able to pull on, but it turned out it wasn't quite big enough for that. My sweet little girl then proceeded to start what could have been a giant tantrum in the middle of the women's locker room.

I was quick the empathize - I know how nervous she was about getting the dress on over her head - but I also asked her what her solution would be. This is something that is new for me - I usually swoop in with my own solutions because I want to help. She said she didn't know so I told her that was fine, I would finish helping her sister and then check back. I did just that. When I again asked her if she had a solution, she said no again. So, I said I would go get her little brother out of the childcare and come back to check again. We followed this pattern for about five more minutes. She wasn't screaming, just thinking.

At some point she decided to just try putting the dress on herself - and it worked. She was so proud of herself! It was a great moment. In the past I would have just pulled the dress on myself. She would have been screaming, I would have been frustrated and embarrassed - not a good time. This was so much better - and taught her (and me) some good life lessons. Not bad for a few minutes in a locker room.

I am super excited to use Love and Logic in my classroom because this will be my first time in three years getting to start the school year with my class. I was hired late last year (October) and it was the hardest year! It was a combination of the chemistry of the kids and my lack of a plan. I had never taught "challenging" students before so I wasn't prepared at all. A few of the other teachers tried to help me, but their styles were very authoritarian and that just isn't me at all.

Don't get me wrong, there were tons of things I loved about last year, but I feel like I could have handled situations better. I feel really empowered going into this school year with such a strong classroom management plan.

Plus - I think that it will really fit in with some of the other programs I am looking to implement next year like Daily 5 and focusing on showing our thinking.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Daily 5 for Fourth Grade

I just finished reading The Daily Five by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, and I must say it is amazing! I was so excited reading it - I could just picture my busy classroom :).

Parts of the Daily Five are definitely designed for younger students - for example, a lot of fourth graders would not find it necessary to spend 30 minutes reading the pictures of a book. However, a lot of the ideas are good for any age (as they continually pointed out in the book).

I am planning on using Daily Five in my classroom with just a couple of tweaks. We are definitely going to do Read to Self, Read with Someone, and Work on Writing as they are described in the book. I am thinking I will have to somehow combine Work on Writing and Writer's Workshop because I don't think we will have time to do both, but that doesn't seem like a huge change. I will just do the mini-lessons for Writer's Workshop during the Daily Five group meeting time.

I will be doing my own version of Word Work and Listen to Someone Read. For Word Work we will have two focuses - vocabulary and spelling. My students will be using Greek and Latin Roots to build their vocabularies (I have a complete school year set of these in my TpT store). I will have different activities for them to practice their five roots for the week, plus review of older roots here and there. Spelling is harder - I really like the idea of using clay, stamps, etc... to practice spelling, but I am not sure if this is too young for fourth graders... Help from experienced fourth grade teachers would be much appreciated!

I will still have students Listen to Someone Read, but I think I will limit it to once a week. There are few things better than relaxing and listening to a good book, but every day seems like a bit much. Instead, four days a week I am going to have my students work on comprehension. This has been the area I have seen the most improvement in with my middle school students. It is just one of those things that needs to be practiced a lot and most kids don't take the time to practice. I have lots of reading passages with comprehension questions at my TpT store as well. I plan on spending lots of time reading good fourth grade books this summer. Then I can jot down questions for each chapter so students can test themselves on the books they are reading. Finally, I have a free nonfiction reading passage note organizer that students can use at this stations as well.

I will definitely post pictures as I set up my classroom in late August :).

Things I still need to get...
chimes - to signal the class to stop, look, and listen
organizers for Word Work and Reading Comprehension Materials
anchor charts (prepared for work in class)

I still have a lot to do, but it feels good to know that I at least have a framework for a big chunk of my day.

Monday, July 1, 2013

My Favorite Place

If I wasn't a teacher I would definitely be a librarian! How fun to get to be with all those books all day!

If you can't tell, I was at one of my favorite places today - the library. I needed to get started reading books so I can make good recommendations for my new fourth grade students next fall. Unfortunately, everyone is super excited about summer reading and lots of the books I was looking for were gone :(. Sad for me, good for the kids!

Don't worry, I still found lots to read including several teacher books which I will be blogging about soon.

Yes, I am that crazy woman at the library who balances two giant stacks of books because I always forget my bag and find way more books than I can carry. (Notice the Princess and the Frog book? That is for my daughters who are both learning to read - I cannot even describe how excited I am about this! We are reading Ramona books at bedtime and I am in heaven - I still remember reading Ramona myself when I was little.)

So, my question for all intermediate elementary teachers - what books should I read this summer to get ready for a class full of young readers? Girls, boys, readers, reluctant readers, etc... I want something for everyone! Thanks so much!