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!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Teachers Inky Linky!!

This post might push the envelope a little bit, but Laurie from Chickadee Jubilee inspired me to host my very first linky party about... teacher tattoos! <gasp!> I know it's not a professional post, but we are on summer break after all. We're allowed a few posts on other subjects, right?! I've appropriately named this linky party the Teachers Inky Linky!

One of my guilty pleasures is watching shows like Miami Ink or LA Ink. I love hearing the stories and the meanings behind their tattoos. Most are truly a work of art, others... I'm not so sure. My tattoo is very special to me, because it was a present to myself on my 30th birthday. It represents my faith and my love of music. The lyrics in the banner are from a song called Lifesong by Casting Crowns.

Ok, now that I have shown you mine, you show me yours. BUT!! I do have a few ground rules for this linky:

1. Please use good judgment when posting pictures of your tat. If it's in a place where we have no business looking at it, then please don't. If it contains profanity or other vulgarities, please do not post it. You'd think I wouldn't have to have a disclaimer like this, but one can never guess. I'm covering my bases! :: smiles ::

2. Please DO share your pic and story as to why you got it and what it symbolizes.

Allrighty - let the inky linky fun begin! Please help me out by blogging about this linky party. Here's a fun badge created by Dana at Fun in 1st Grade. Be sure to stop by her blog and show some love! :)
Thanks for a great badge, Dana!! Fun in 1st Grade

Monday, July 9, 2012

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Have you been following the yellow brick road through TBA's International Blog Hopping Day? I guess for me it's been blog hopping weekend! There are so many great blogs out there to read - you can easily spend the weekend reading and still not get through them all!

In keeping with TBA's theme, I'm dedicating today's post about teaching smart! There are so many "smart" ideas out there

 Visit Live, Love, Laugh Everyday in Kindergarten's linky!

I've made a simple phrase my mantra... "Work smarter, not harder." This is something I learned mid-way through the last school year after attending a workshop on differentiated instruction. I think we all get wrapped up in our school life that a lot of times we make things a little too hard on ourselves. With this in mind, I've listed a few tidbits of wisdom I've learned over the years.

1. Prioritize- There are so many day-to-day tasks that can easily overwhelm us if we don't take a few minutes to evaluate what's important to get done right away and what can wait. I was the #1 offender of this rule. I would try to get so much done during my plan time that I neglected to get any planning done! This hurt my students in the long run. Intentionally modeling this will help your students learn how to prioritize and more efficient with their time as well. It's a win-win!

2. Student Ownership of Space & Learning - There are a lot of times where students can help the teacher with day-to-day upkeep of the classroom and they are eager to help, so why not let them?! The concept of classroom responsibilities is not foreign to teachers, but many do not do it because they don't want to give up control of the classroom space. Just like we're supposed to let students take responsibility for their learning, we can also let them take responsibility for the space. It's their classroom after all.  Use classroom jobs to help your students develop responsibility or immerse them in a real-world situation in a classroom economy. I hope to post my adaptation of another teacher's classroom economy in the not-so-distant future so you can see what it looks like in my classroom.

3. Community Building - Reduce negative behaviors and bullying by taking time each day to help your class build and maintain a learning community. There are many ways to do this, but my favorite is utilizing morning meetings. I learned this structure from a teacher friend who was trained in the Responsive Classroom. Morning meeting is a great way to learn respect for others, to work/play together, and appreciate each other as individuals -- plus, it's FUN! Yes, take time to have fun with your students! Visit Mrs. Gold's Website to learn more about launching your own morning meetings.

4. Brain Breaks - We drill a lot of content and process into our kids on a daily basis. We need to give them a short rest throughout the day. I'm not going to say much other than JUST DANCE! :) Here's a previous blog post of mine on the same subject.

By no means do I have the market cornered on smart teaching. In fact, I have so much more to learn and I cannot wait to share more of the smarts I'll be learning on this blog. I hope you come back and join me on this journey to becoming a smarter teacher!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Heart to Heart

You've probably seen the latest in linky parties with...

Follow The Famous Yellow Road

The cool thing about this linky series is that there are several different topics and opportunities to network with other bloggers. Very cool, indeed! My last post was about walking a day in my shoes, and this post is dedicated to...

Follow The Famous Yellow Road

What does being a teacher mean to me? At first, I really didn't want to be a teacher. I wanted to be a Spanish interpreter, and then I wanted to become a youth minister. I felt God was calling me to work with teens, so I attended a local Baptist university and started all the necessary classes. I was excited at first, then after a few outings with the teens from my church, I decided youth ministry wasn't my calling. Don't get me wrong - I had a blast hanging out with the teens from our church and we developed really strong friendships, but that's as far as it went. I wasn't prepared to help teens deal with teen issues, and I realized my calling was to work with younger children, only not in the church setting. I noticed there was a bigger mission field available to me, and that was the public school system. 

After student teaching and graduation, there was a hiring freeze in many of the school districts in my area (lovely budget issues!), so I tried several different jobs thinking I was misguided in my thinking and calling. I worked for America Online for 4 years and was going to make that my career until I was a part of a huge lay off. I worked in a travel agency's call center, I worked for a credit card company, and while the money was great, I was miserable because I hated those jobs. I made one big circle in this journey of life, and I ended up right back where I started... the public school! I may not be rich, but I've found the most rewarding job ever -- teaching!

While my faith plays a big role in my decision to become a teacher, I realize I cannot share my faith directly with my students, but my faith is shared through being a positive, male role model to those that may not have one. I lost my father when I was in fourth grade and unfortunately, didn't have a good male role model in my life. I want my students to have what I didn't have - a guy who will challenge, push them because he cares about them and their future. 

Thanks for reading and make sure you head over to TBA and Journey of a Substitute Teacher to link up!!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Check Out My Kicks!

Follow The Famous Yellow Road

Hmm... what do you think of me and my ruby slippers? Are they me?! <wink> I was reading blogstalking the Lifelong learning blog and came across another great blog to stalk... err... read: Ingles360. Here's another random fact about Mr. B... Yo hablo un poquito de espaƱol. Back when I was using the language on a regular basis, I could actually hold a decent conversation, but alas... over the years my conversational skills have atrophied and I can stumble my way through a conversation here or there. Anyway, I digress... Ana at Ingles360 (also with Teaching Blog Addict) has this linky party going on where you share what a "normal" day looks like. 

Ruby Red Slippers

 For starters, I'm in desperate need of new shoes. I'm sporting flip flops right now, but now that I'm wanting to go back to the gym and school is starting back up, I need some new kicks. I was looking around online and found a pair of Nike tennis shoes from Lance Armstrong's LIVESTRONG collection.
 Nice, right?! I wish I had the $$ to buy these, but I'm sure I can find something like it at Shoe Carnival or something. Anyhoot... on to the meat & potatoes of the linky. Here's what a day looked like for me last school year:

5:30am - Alarm goes off and I hit snooze.

5:45am - Alarm goes off again, and... I hit snooze again.

6:00am - Alarm goes off and I drag my lazy rear to the kitchen, turn on the Keurig, and stumble my way back to the bedroom to get ready for the day.

6:20am - Make my coffee, gather my things, and meet up with the carpool by 6:35am.

7:00am - The carpool makes it to school and we head to our classrooms to get prepped for the day.

7:30am - Students arrive. Most of them will go eat breakfast in the cafeteria, but some will stick around the classroom to get started on morning work, or head to the library to check out books.

8:05am - Tardy bell rings and we start our day with Morning Meeting. Check out the link to Morning Meeting if you don't know what this is. It's a great way to start the day! You can also look at the Responsive Classroom website for more information.

8:30am - Spelling/Word Work - The school district I worked for had us to a spelling list out of our basal series. I taught the spelling pattern, the kids studied, and we had a test on Friday. I really didn't enjoy this part of the day, but we got it done.

8:45am - Writer's Workshop: mini-lesson, independent work, and sharing, if we had time. Also threw some grammar in here for some good measure.

9:15am - Guided Reading/Daily 5 Block - I started with a strategy mini-lesson and then went into guided reading/D5 choices (Word Work [spelling], Work on Writing, Read to Self, Meet with Teacher). This changed a lot over the course of the school year because we just started this, but I am excited to work with experienced D5 teachers next year. 

10:30am - Science - I have to admit a lot of times reading spilled into our science time. We were lucky to get 15-20 minutes of science in each day. Wednesdays were a little different because we had an extension program come in and do some science enrichment with our kids.

11:00am - Specials - Break/Plan Time for Mr. B! Each Tuesday our team meets with our principal and instructional coaches to collaboratively plan and go over assessment data.

11:55am - Rush to get the kids from specials and take them to LUNCH!

12:30pm - Math - I tried a guided math approach with my 4th graders last year, and I'm hoping I can do this next year in my new school. We did a mini-lesson on the concept, then broke off into math stations: Independent Work, Rocket Math (math facts), Computers (math games), and Work with the Teacher.

2:00pm - Recess - I had duty 3 out of 5 days, but on my off days, I tried to get as much grading, planning, and communicating done.

2:30pm - Social Studies - A quick Missouri History lesson and activity.

3:00pm - Get ready to go home! Take bus riders to their lines, make sure car riders are where they should be, and get my tutoring kids for tutoring on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

3:30pm - Pack up and head home with the carpool!

4:15pm - Honey, I'm home! Wait, she's not home yet. Let the dogs out and time for a nap!

4:30pm - Ok, I really should think about getting dinner started.

5:30pm - The wife enters... Honey, I'm home! We eat dinner and spend the rest of our night working on our Pampered Chef business, grading papers, and catching up on a few of our favorite shows.

10:00pm - Mr. B is ready for bed!

Hopefully by this time next year, my wife and I will have our own little one to add to the schedule, but this was a typical day for me as a teacher. Share your craziness with the rest of the world by linking up at Ingles360 and show some "cowabunga" (comment) love down below! :)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

NBK Chapter 2 (part 2)

In my last post, I wrote about my personal learning as I was reading about strategies to help in launching the writer's notebook. There was so much "meat" in this chapter, I decided to break it up into two parts. The first section helps teachers get their notebooks going in the classroom as well as equips students with strategies to keep them writing.

The second section of chapter 2 is dedicated to establishing student expectations with the notebook and how to help students build writing stamina & fluency. The first strategy Aimee Buckner gives us is something she calls Daily Pages. Daily Pages are done before writing workshop even begins and is oftentimes done as morning work. Students are required to write a full page about anything they want, but cannot skip lines, write with huge letters, and must contain at least 100 words. When I read this, I thought she had to be kdding, but she doesn't count the words and uses it to "impress" the kids. Inevitably, they deliver! I love this strategy because it allows students to just write about whatever and allows them to "take the trash out, to clear their minds. It's okay to spend the morning writing about nothing on the daily page, as long as you are ready to write during writing workshop (pg. 23)." I had to use this quote because I could not do it any better justice.

Another strategy we are not unfamiliar with is writing off literature. It goes without saying that writers need to be readers, and a lot of our inspiration for writing comes from reading literature. The next strategy is also familiar to us teachers: using observations. We all want our students to become exceptional writers and exceptional writers create vivid mind movies (my term for visualizations) by using our senses and painting those pictures for their audience. In short... show, don't tell. Other strategies include writing from a word and lifting a line. Writing from a word can be a fun activity because students (at first) choose any noun and just start writing about it. Lifting a line requires students go reread their notebooks and find a line from another piece of writing that can be used to generate a new piece of text. This leads me to the final strategy: Reread & Highlight.

This strategy is so simple, yet I think it's often overlooked. The students simply look and reread through their writer's notebook looking for things they think are interesting or noteworthy. If they find something, they highlight it and notate off to the side why they like it or why it is interesting. This becomes a launching point for a new piece of writing. They also reread their notebook in search of patterns and as a way to reflect on their learning and writing. This isn't something that can be done just once, but it must be reread often as "seed ideas tend to hide (pg. 29)".

Aimee also goes on to discuss setting expectations and procedures for their notebooks. She outlines what she expects from her students and what the students can expect from her during writer's workshop. One great idea I got from this was to have students fold over any entries they may not want me to read. It could be that it's too personal or maybe they had a bad morning and needed to vent in their notebook. Students are not penalized for this because she makes it clear that action will be taken if she thinks the student is being hurt by someone, will hurt someone else, or will hurt themselves. Folded entries also do not count toward their required weekly entries.

I'm only finishing the second chapter of the book and I'm already walking away with new knowledge and wisdom for my own writing instruction. I'm excited to try out these strategies and I love the way they are mapped out for you in the book. It's almost like I'm observing in her own classroom, and I love that about Aimee's writing.

Stay tuned for Chapter 3 - Kneading the Notebook. I wonder what I will learn next?!

NKH - Chapter 2 (part 1)

Happy Thusrday, everyone! I hope you had an uber-enjoyable 4th of July holiday spent with those who are near and dear to you. I know I did! My friends and I spent our 4th of July at the ball park watching the Springfield Cardinals!. We also rocked out with Members Only (an 80's cover band) and were amazed by fireworks afterward.

As you all know I've been reading Notebook Know-How by Aimee Buckner. I just finished chapter 2 which focuses on "launching" the notebook in your writer's workshop. I thought I'd hit on some of the "ah-ha!" moments and some reflections I had while I was reading. There is so much going on in my head, I may need to break this post up into two parts!

I think one of the most powerful things Buckner does as a teacher is the intentional modeling of "living the life of a writer". She expects all of her students to use and maintain a writing notebook, so she uses and maintains one as well. She expects her students to write every day, so she is sure to make sure her students see her writing every day. I always knew modeling was an important part of instruction, but I never really gave any thought to writing in my own notebook in front of the kids. There are so many other things demanding my attention I really don't need something else monopolizing my time. However, it comes down to priorities. If I really want my students to become better writers and to live a writer's life, then I have to be the model for it. I also like how she writes notes about her students in her notebook. Not just academic notes, but also patterns/topics she sees in her students writing that will help inform her instruction later. 

I also love her use of literature in her writing lessons. This is a must, and again, this is something I need to do more of. It goes beyond simply reading the book and saying, "Oh this author is so wonderful! The words are great, and blah blah blah!" It's really digging deep into the book and trying to infer where the inspiration came from, the message the author is trying to make, and also analyzing the traits of good writing.

The next thing I loved about Aimee's use of notebook is that she asks the students to write from the front AND the back of their notebooks. At the back of the notebook, students take notes on lessons, try editing and revising strategies, and use it as a resource when they write independently. Students begin writing their daily, self-selected entries at the beginning of their notebook. This is something I never would have thought to try! To that end, students fill up their notebooks quickly and will need another before the school year is up. When it comes to organizing their notebooks, Aimee leaves it up to the kids. This is such a great way to empower students to take ownership for their own learning! 

Of course, some of our "precious ones" don't make it so easy on us. We've all heard this before: "But, Mr. B!!! I don't know what to write!!" Aimee provides teachers with a few strategies that will help students get their notebooks up & running, and to keep them writing. They are:
  • Storytelling - Not just writing a fiction story, but also includes narratives. Everyone has a story to tell!
  • History of a Name
  • Writing from a list
  • Questions - I want to share a quote about the purpose of this strategy because it really struck a chord with me. "The goal of this mini-lesson is to take one question or one thing they wonder about and try to think through it--to write what might possible be the answer or what thinking led them to this question in the first place." This is deep, meaningful learning here!
I could definitely go on with more from this part of the chapter, but I don't want to make this so long that it bores you. The next part of chapter 2 deals with helping students build writing stamina and fluency, which I will write about tomorrow. 

Thanks for reading and feel free to post your own thoughts and ideas in the form of a comment down below!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Blog Award & Summer PD

I'm not sure if I will get a post published in time for the 4th, so I thought I'd go ahead and wish everyone a happy...
Clip art from Make Your Own

I'm not sure what you guys have planned, but I'll be spending time with family & friends and going to a baseball game with a fireworks finale! We were beginning to wonder if any one would be allowed to do fireworks this year since it's been so dry; many surrounding counties have banned fireworks this year due to the extreme conditions. Anyhooo... I digress.

I want to send a quick shout out to my bloggy friends at Beg, Borrow & Teach! and No Monkey Business because they have awarded me...

Thanks, guys!! There are some rules I need to follow, but I will have to do them later because my lunch hour draweth to a close. I promise I will make good on awarding other noble bloggers with this highly-esteemed accolade!

I also wanted to throw some ideas for summer PD out there into the blogosphere! While some of us will be attending a conference here and there throughout the summer, many want to keep their breaks sacred, yet still keep up with the latest and greatest in the educational field. Not to mention, those conferences can break the budget with registration and travel costs. Here are a few FREE options to consider:

TeacherCast is a wonderful resource if you are constantly on the go. You can download free podcasts to your mobile device or computer and listen to "workshops" on a variety of topics. My principal calls it "Bathroom PD" because she listens to various podcasts while she gets ready in the morning. Totally tubular, right?!

We Read, We Blog, We Teach

This blog is really making waves right now as they just launched a book study on the Daily 5 and CAFE books by "The Sisters". If you teach using the D5 and CAFE structures, or if you're even remotely interested in this instructional structure, this is worth your time! Dude! Click the badge above to drop in on the convo!

Allright -- back to work, I go! Catch you on the flip side!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

July Currently

It's that time again -- Farley's Currently Linky!! I'm so pumped because I'm actually completing this ON TIME! And it's so patriotic - just in time for the 4th of July. Without further ado... my star-spangled Currently!

To explain a little about the "Reads" category... Farley asked us to 1. List our favorite classroom read-aloud and 2. Our professional "go to" book. If you haven't already, be sure to visit Farley's blog and link up! Be sure to follow the directions she posted!

More posts to come! Stay tuned! :)