Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Chapters 1 & 2: Release & Change

I am reading Reading with Meaning by Debbie Miller which is actually a mentor text for teachers in my school district. Our instructional specialists and administration reference her work quite often so I naturally wanted to acquaint myself with Miller's work. As I read through this book, there are some things I already know & practice, so I am challenging myself to find new thinking & ideas and to reflect on that new learning - to actively practice metacognition. :) Here are just a few snippets from my latest reading:

Chapter 1 - Release the Responsibility!
I've always wanted my students to be independent and I expect that of them on a daily basis; however, I found that Miller zeros in on a specific word in this chapter: gradual. I am guilty of getting too excited about our learning in the classroom and after what I think is modeling, I want my kids to fly solo only to feel disappointment when my kids crash & burn. Miller recommends spending spending more time and going deeper with certain concepts -- 6 to 8 weeks. This would allow for the gradual release of responsibility beginning with modeling, thinking aloud, and allowing students to independently practice & share how they're using reading strategies. The only thing I am having trouble reconciling is how do you spend 6-8 weeks on a strategy yet still fit in everything else you have to teach?! As I continue to read I'm sure Miller will shed more light because she is not disillusioned to the curricular demands placed on teachers.

Chapter 2 - Change Your Thinking
This chapter is dedicated to establishing your community of readers & writers. I am HUGE believer in classroom community, but I did have a pretty major "Ah-Ha!" moment. I need to make misbehavior a teaching moment in my classroom. I have pretty high expectations and our class spends countless hours at the beginning of the school year establishing routines & procedures. When those routines, procedures, & expectations are broken, the kids know there are consequences for those actions. At the same time, the atmosphere is light and there is plenty of levity & laughter in the classroom. However we still are struggling with students getting along and working as a cohesive team. Here is where my "Ah-Ha" moment comes into play.

Miller recommends using each "misbehavior" as a teaching moment, to give students the ammunition to take care of the situation themselves in a respectful way. For example, my students often have trouble lining up at the door because "they can't get in line" or "someone's in the way." Instead of griping at the class and telling them they should know how to get in line by now, I should say something to the effect... "Jasmine, I notice you're having trouble getting in line. Maybe we can ask Abagail to scoot back a little so you can get in line? Let's try that now!" <Jasmine asks Abagail to scoot back> "Now, Abagail, I noticed Jasmine asked you to scoot back a little so she can get in line. How can you help her out in this situation?" Consistency is key when it comes to giving the students the language to independent, respectful problem solvers!

I found a great video on the Teaching Channel that talks a little bit about this and it was a great review for me as I continue to foster a positive environment that is focused on learning.

What other techniques have you used to create a positive environment that's focused on learning? I'd love to hear your tips & tricks! Feel free to leave me a comment or two! ;)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Third Time's a Charm

After two failed attempts to "get back to blogging," I am going to try one more time! Honestly, I have missed blogging and have had a good reason not to blog. Would you like to see my reason? Ok, you've twisted my arm! ;)

Meet my daughter, Brynlee Rose! If you remember from my earlier blog posts, my wife and I were in the process of adoption. After the mountain of paperwork and several interviews later, we were matched with an expectant mom. We were told she was due mid-February, so we spent Christmas break getting the nursery ready and just mentally preparing ourselves to welcome a child into our home. Little did we know, little Miss Brynlee would make her world debut earlier than expected. She came into the world on January 8, 2013 and moved into her "forever home" on February 2nd. She has blessed us beyond measure and we're absolutely loving parenthood!!

I don't want to make this too long, but if you're interested in following our adoption story you can check out our other blog (which is also in dire need of updating!) Bringing Home Baby Bennett.

Now for the educational stuff... I am going to be posting my reflections on this blog as I read through Reading with Meaning by Debbie Miller. I am super-excited about reading this book, because I've heard great things from other teachers and it really gels with my philosophy of learning & teaching! I can't wait to learn how to improve my teaching of reading & writing, and try out my new learning on my 4th graders this year!

I hope to regain my readers, so come on back to my blog and say hello! :)


Friday, November 2, 2012

Mr. B? Who's He?

Did ya miss me?! You know you did!! :)

I know it's been a really long time since I put up a blog post, and for that I apologize. Things have been so crazy in my life that I had to put this little project on the back burner. There is so much to update you on and I have no idea where to start with it all.

I will be posting something this weekend for you all, and it is my hope I can (at least) keep this bad boy updated with a few posts a month. I'm excited about blogging, blog-stalking, and learning from you all so that I can become a better educator.

Hang 10, dudes & dudettes!!


Thursday, July 26, 2012

B2B - Back 2 Blogging!

Howdy everyone!

I know I promised a post once I got back from kids camp, but as you can see, that never happened! I was back on the 20th and just haven't had time to pull a post together for you guys. With that in mind, this post is going to be abbreviated. I am transitioning out of my summer job and back into the classroom! I went out for the first time a couple days ago, and instantly became overwhelmed with the amount of "stuff" that had to be done. Has that ever happened to you? All I knew to do was create a list of to do's and start prioritizing. I will be taking some pics soon and posting them. I cannot wait to take what I've learned from blogging, pinning, and networking, then put it into action in the classroom!

In other news - HOLY BANANAS!! I have 132 followers! How did that happen?! I'm loving it! I'll have to look around and see what freebies I have to celebrate this momentous occasion!

Allrighty, time to stop blogging and get back to work. Stay tuned for more teachery randomness from yours truly! Have a great day! And smile, because tomorrow is FRIDAY!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

NBK Ch. 3-4, I Won, and Goin' to Kamp!

There's so much to write about I don't know where to start! I guess I'll start off by saying I'll be taking a bit of a blogging hiatus. I will be heading to Kids Kamp (yes, spelled with a K) with about 25 4th and 5th graders from my church for a whole week. Crazy?! Maybe, but if the truth be known, I'm looking forward to it. :) With that said, I will be completely unplugged from my laptop, wi-fi, cell phone service, my blog, and anything technology related! It's one of the few times in the year where I am truly away from those things.

Secondly, I won a prize from Michelle at Making It As a Middle School Teacher. She had a huge giveaway and I won a prize. I never win anything, so I was stoked to see an e-mail from Melissa at Dilly Dabbles Doodles saying that I won something from her store!! I decided to go with some Hollywood themed frames to use in the upcoming school year. I also won a virtual goodie bag filled with different freebies from various blog authors. How cool is that?!?! Be sure you head to Michelle's blog and to Melissa's website to check out the rockin' awesome stuff they have going on there. You won't be sorry! :)

Last, but not least, I thought I'd share my reflections on the next two chapters of Notebook Know How. My last couple posts have been rather lengthy, so I will try my best to keep my thoughts short & concise. 

Chapter 3 was all about "kneading" the notebook. This was a really fun analogy, because she recounts the memories of baking with her grandmother and relates that to writing. Once the notebook gets launched, the main challenge is getting students to maintain and stay consistent with writing in their notebooks. Students go from merely writing in their notebooks to fleshing out ideas and developing topics into what will become full, published pieces of writing. Aimee Buckner shares some great strategies to help students develop their topics into writing pieces, but a couple new (to me) strategies caught my attention.
  • Three by Threes - This is an easy activity where Aimee has her students list three word phrases in three minutes on a particular topic. This forces students to think quickly and to be very specific with their writing. Before your students know it, they have very creative and powerful details to add to their writing!
  • K-N-T Chart - This is a great spin-off of a KWL chart. The students choose a topic and create a 3-column chart labled K-N-T. K stands for Know, N for Need to know, and T is for My Thinking. This strategy is especially useful when students are researching a topic and they can keep track of their own thinking as they research. This will help them formulate thoughts and opinions, then justify them with their research. It also encourages them to learn more about their topic!
Chapter 4 focuses on encouraging writers to read like writers. This chapter really convicted me of not using enough mentor texts in my writing lessons. I think I didn't use them often because I wasn't sure how to get the students to really examine other author's writing style. Aimee Buckner recommends that you read the book or parts of the book multiple times. Once for enjoyment, and two or three times to allow students to really pick apart the author's style of writing. 

One of the strategies that stood out to me was a revision strategy called Try Ten. Students reread their writing to pick out one "weak" sentence that could use some beefing up. They write that sentence 10 different ways without changing it's meaning, unless it enhances their writing. Then, after writing it 10 different ways, they pick the one they think is the best. Revision is always the hardest part of the writing process, so I was excited to add this tool to my tool belt.  

Another strategy I thought was especially useful was Mapping the Text. Simply copy a passage from a book familiar to the students to paste/tape into their notebooks. Students then circle words and phrases they think are interesting and then they try to emulate those interesting techniques, words, and phrases in their own writing. 

So, what am I going to do now? I am going to utilize more mentor texts to help my students write like real authors do. With this in mind, I'm wondering... what are some good mentor texts you use in your classroom? Which books lend themselves to given concepts? I'd love to read your suggestions in the form of a COWABUNGA! down below. Don't forget to link up your blog on my Bodacious Blogs page, either! :)

See you in a week!!