Nudge, Nudge

I love it when thinking is nudged.  I love it when someone asks as question that makes you think in a COMPLETELY different way than you were headed, and you are COMPLETELY surprised when it happened.  Well, since my team is all working from the same writing plan this year (which is not really something I’ve ever done before!), there have naturally been some questions that have come up related to what we’re doing.  Of course they have been, “Hey, tell me more about this…” kind of questions, not “What in the world were you thinking?” questions, which is nice. 🙂

So…you know we’ve been doing work with tiny notebooks as a way to introduce Writer’s Workshop this year.  Well, eventually there comes a time when our 2nd grade writers will prove to to us that they are ready to graduate into their “real” Writer’s Notebooks.  As a matter of habit, I guess, I put that step into the plan right around Day 12, when I figured that everyone would be ready; I’ve always done it that way with everyone on the same day (like here, and here).

Screenshot 2015-09-27 16.22.35I proceeded normally, working a few days ahead of my team, which was nice so I could work out the kinks of the plan (I’d used this idea with older kids, but never with 2nd graders, so I wasn’t quite sure how it would work! LOL).  Then one day, at a working lunch, the subject of notebooks came up again.  Everyone wanted to know how I had decided to actually handle it, and what procedure I was going through to get them to my kiddos.  I mentioned that I was going to plan Notebook Day for the following week, with everyone celebrating on the same day (which is again, the way I’ve always done it).  The next thing that happened was really interesting.  Most of my friends around the table just said, “Hmm….” and I could tell they were trying to work it out.  They asked me about the purpose of teh tiny notebooks and how it didn’t make sense to do everyone’s Notebook Day on the same day if everyone was ready at different times.  They were, after all, supposed to PROVE to me that they “got it.”  I explained that the real thing behind the tiny notebooks was, in addition to teaching them how to use their “real” notebook, the expectation and anticipation of getting their new notebooks.  I rationalized that I’d always gotten everyone on board in a really positive way and that maybe it didn’t really matter if they were ready; Notebook Day was more about the ceremony and excitement around being a writer.  We agreed that probably everyone else was going to give individual kids their notebooks when they were ready, rather than all at once, and that I was probably going to go ahead with an all-class celebration.  Most importantly, though, we agreed that there was no RIGHT way to do it.  Personal choice and professional judgment was paramount here.

Well, the meeting ended and I went on with the rest of my day, but I COULD NOT get that conversation out of my head.  I had a headache in a really good way.  You know those kind?  The ones when you know that you’re chewing on something really important and you’re actually ok that it hurts? (You don’t have those?  I hope so, because it means that you’re surrounding yourself with really great people who challenge you to improve your practice and evaluate how you do things. 🙂 ).  I finished out the day, still unsure how I would proceed, and went home to have the same conversation with Mr. Bearden.  I was pretty sure that (while it wasn’t a right/wrong issue) he would side with me, agreeing that a whole-class Notebook Day was a great idea.  Well…he didn’t.  He was actually really great about asking many other questions about it, and making suggestions about how I could have better explained my thinking to my team.  He sided agreed that my team’s thinking that “when you’re ready” is the best time for new notebooks.

I chewed and chewed, trying to figure out why I’d always done it that way, and whether or not it would (or should!) work for this particular group of kiddos.  Why hadn’t I ever done it “when they were ready,” as I had always explained to my students it would be?  Why had I always done notebooks as a one-size-fits-all type situation?  Well, ok, honestly probably because it’s easier.  Especially with bigger kids, I probably didn’t want to manage keeping track of who had their notebook and who didn’t, as well as not wanting students to feel like they weren’t good enough or good writers.  The whole thing, after all, was based on helping kids see themselves as writers, learn to live like writers and WANT TO BE WRITERS.  In my mind, any negative (or something they could perceive as negative) was a no-go.

But maybe a one-size-fits-all what this group needed.  Maybe, since they’re younger writers and this is the very beginning of their lifelong journey as writers, this was the year that I changed my whole process and really did what I said I was about all along (novel idea, right?)? And really, now that I admit it, when does one-size-fits-all ever work for kids?

So I decided I’d jump in and change up the whole “real” notebook deal this time around.  There are pieces of it that I knew I wanted to keep the same, but the “when” of the process would be different for this new group of kiddos.  And you know what?  It’s been totally great and then some.  Better than I could have imagined, and the anticipation and excitement are actually increased since kiddos aren’t sure when their Notebook Day will come.

(But really they can be sure…read more here. 🙂 )

Entering the Blogosphere

If you would have asked me last school year if I’d ever have a blog, I’d have said you were nuts.  I knew what they were, but didn’t see myself as a blogger; I didn’t have a story that anyone wanted to hear.  I wasn’t really sure what I’d write about–up to that point I’d only written for myself as the audience in my notebook.  So then if your next question would have been if my kids would be bloggers, then I’d have considered you certifiable.

So I guess you’re all crazy–and I am, too!–because my class has a blog, and my kids started their blogging journey this week, too!

Before I go any further, I have to give a shout-out and a thanks to Pernille Ripp (@pernilleripp) and Karen McMillan (@mcteach) for providing many useful blogging resources to teachers like me who have a great idea but don’t really know where to start.  Their assistance via Twitter and their own blogs has been unbelievable!

Now for the story:

I have been talking up blogging since pretty much day one.  I started the class blog that you’re reading in July, after talking alot with my brother, who teaches high school math and just finished his Masters in Educational Technology (or something like that–sorry if I got the title wrong, Chuck!).  I have been writing for a long while now, but I needed another outlet.  At this same time, I also joined Twitter, and have been learning much from my “tweeps” ever since.  That’s actually where I got the idea for blogging with kids.

I was noticing that so many people were tweeting about updated posts by their kids, and so I started reading.  I soon learned that there a tons of kids out there who are learning super important lessons about writing and internet safety (and too many more to name) because they are blogging.  Even kindergarteners.  Yep, 5 and 6 year olds.  So the more I read, and the more I thought about it, the more I knew I wanted my kids to join them.  And so I began planning on how my 5th graders would enter the blogosphere.

We started on Wednesday, with a lesson that I called “Blogging 101.”  It was funny that I had to explain the “101” part to my kids–they had never heard of that before.  We talked about what background knowledge they had for the word LOG, and discussed how a log is a place where someone (like a pilot or ship captain) writes down important things that happen, organized by dates.  They were able to then transfer that idea to web-log, or blog, and we were in business.

They already have experience with this blog that I write, because we read it together almost everyday, and many of them have been following and commenting for months now.  I showed them several of the other blogs I follow, like Make It and Love It, the Candy Blog (that one is one of my hubby’s favorites, actually), Bake at 350 and Daily Daisy (and Caleb, too!).  We talked about what we noticed about both the appearance and theme of each one.  At this point they were chomping at the bit to get going–but there was another very important thing we had to talk about next: safety.

Thanks to an idea I found from Pernille Ripp again, we talked about why internet safety is like the mall.  While my students, who are 10-11-year-olds, don’t spend a lot of time at the mall or other places by themselves yet, they knew some really smart things to do and not do: not talk to strangers, not share their personal information with random people, only go where you tell your parents you’re going and stay there the whole time, and so on.  I was really pleased, because I knew I was going to be talking about how the very same things would keep them safe while they were on the internet on their own.  We talked through an internet safety plan, that they were to take home to share with their parents and have signed.

Next step: first blog post.  But not online, on paper.  They created a rough draft to tell about themselves, then edited and made a final draft on 9X12 oak tag.  This was serious business in our room.

     

    

After two days’ worth of work, we had finished paper blog posts and we were ready to learn about what makes blogging interesting: commenting.  I shared some guidelines, and we talked about what they were thinking.  I gave them some ideas for comment starters (shared by Karen McMillan on her blog Notes from McTeach), and my kiddos were great to connect some conversation prompts we already use in our classroom to this new learning.  Each student was given a pad of sticky notes, and the were off.  I turned on some quiet music, and they went to work.  They read, they thought, they commented.  For almost 45 minutes!  Yes, you heard right–45 minutes of silence and students focused on sharing their thoughts with their friends.

        

                     

After a while, everyone’s blogs started to become a beautiful rainbow of colored post-its, each containing kind and constructive words from their classmates.

Once everyone had had a chance to comment on blogs (and comment on other comments), we took some time to read what others had written, and then sat down to debrief and celebrate.  As we gathered in a circle on our carpet, I asked them to share with each other whatever they were thinking about what we had just done.  Here were some of their words:

I liked it.  I think this was a good experience for knowing what we’re going to do on our “real” blog.

I think it’s cool because we were talking with paper–kind of like having a conversation, but definitely different.

I think that it was really fun.

It was fun because you got to pass notes and you don’t get to do that in class normally.

It’s great that we got to learn something new while we were having fun together.

This reminded me of Harry Potter–like passing owls–we got to come back and reply to a note that someone wrote.  I really felt like someone was noticing me.

I was excited when Kelsey was replying to my answers, I had to reply back!

So we’re on to the internet on Monday, to be introduced to our kidblog.org blogs.  We hope to have our first “real” posts up by Wednesday.  I have to say I’m impressed.  I am amazed.  I knew it would be good, but it went even better than I anticipated.  It was so cool how engaged they were, how eager they were to share their thoughts and read the thoughts of their classmates, how kind and generous they were with their words.  I didn’t have to censor anyone’s comments; they were completely honest and gracious as they told each other how much they liked what they had read, asked questions to dig deeper and to encourage future work, and to make connections to what the blogger had written.  They commented on each others’ comments, too, and we even ended up with one long string of sticky notes that was about 10 long!  I was so proud of my students once this was completed, and am so excited to see what they do next.  I know it will be amazing.  Because they are amazing. 🙂

Enjoy our first finished projects:

           

               

                    

                                    

                  

                        

          

                          

                                

               

Getting back into it…reading

I feel like I apologize alot.  Especially about how long it’s been since I’ve posted on here.  But hey, here I am doing it again.  Sorry–that’s just the way it is.  I do have a full-time job, after all.  🙂

So I’m thinking I’m just going to give a quick overview of what’s been going on for the last month, and then I can hopefully come back more often and fill in the gaps.  Hopefully.

Reading:  For most of the month of October, we were working on text features in nonfiction and asking questions that help us better comprehend what we’re reading.  I loved the text features project we did, where the kids were given a plain text (about the Iroquois, which we were studying in Social Studies) and asked to add text features to it that would help their reader better understand what was being presented.  It was a great way to see how much they really understood about how pictures, diagrams, captions, headings, subtitles, etc., impact the reader.  These turned out great, and most kiddos really got into it!  We also practiced a strategy called Stop and Ask Questions, which is a mainstay in Making Meaning.  As we read (picture books during Reader’s Workshop, chapter book during Read Aloud and independently in their own reading), we stopped at several points in the story to record what we were wondering.  The goal was to focus our thoughts in on specific details in the story, then pay attention for when the question was answered.  Like I say often: The other part of a good question is a good answer.   Last week, then, we moved on to a new unit on story elements.  We’ve been looking at how analyzing characters, setting, plot, problem/solution, etc., can help us better understand that story.  Today we read the first half of Star of Fear, Star of Hope and will continue with this text tomorrow.  Stay tuned for more in reading soon!