Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Opening Minds...Cyber PD...Part 3

I am amazed how with each section of this book, my response or focus has been completely different!  During Part One, I focused on thinking deeply about how one single word can change everything and inspire action.  During Part Two, I made many connections to this fall and how I wanted to develop a structure for inquiry in the classroom.  During Part Three, I found myself reflecting to past thoughts and building a bridge between known learning and new learning.  Same book, three sections, three different levels of engagement! (This week is hosted by Laura.)

"But it is equally true that our ability to think alone is substantially dependent on our ability to think together. Individual minds are nutured in the conversations-the interactive thinking-of the community.  Thinking well together leads to thinking well alone...But by thinking together...the emotional and relational support we provide for each other in the process of thinking together is usually important for the development of individual minds." (page 96)


My classroom community of readers, my virtual community of bloggers, and my reading life all contain communities.  In each of these communities, no one reads alone.  Each particular community has members and the members within that community rely on each other to experience the joy that reading and conversations can bring.  As readers, we are free to choose what we read, but this choice is influenced by book recommendations, book trailers, and book previews.  As readers, we can "jot" and have conversations, but no one can control our own experience and thinking while reading a book.  As readers, we need guidance.  We need to see how everyone's thinking connects back to the same text that we just read, how it connects to other texts and experiences, and we need the care and support of other readers to try anything new or to understand a new perspective.


Think about the way blogging is set up.  We give "blogs we follow" along the side...recommendations.  We have a "comments" section so we can virtually talk...conversations.  We have a "followers" section so we can see who else we can talk with about a blog....blog partners or blog clubs.  We have an "about me" section so we can understand the perspective of the writing.  I know that my blogging is inter-dependent as well.  I anxiously await comments because I feel I have "put it all out there" and want others to connect thinking back with me.  Also, without the care and support of other bloggers, I would not have tried blogging or made Twitter a NEXT goal instead of a YET goal. (That was for you Maria and Cathy...I still have three weeks:)


"The first step (for children to appreciate each other as interesting and as a source of learning), is to arrange for children to be interesting to each other.  This requires enabling them to bring their interests, experiences, and perspectives to their work." (page 100)


How happy was I to have a whole section on my One Little Word for the year?  And...what a powerful statement as we begin to develop our planned opportunism for the fall.  My thoughts fly forward to inquiry workshop, appreciating our wonders through wondering wishes, book partners, book clubs, book recommendations and choice in reading.  This section also took my thoughts backwards to listening to Chris Tovani in the spring and remembering my notes that I scrambled down.

How does your thinking connect back to the text?  What a powerful use of language!  But what I realized most is that connecting it back to the text is the key to getting access to information and putting it all in perspective in our world. Every reader will enter into engagement with the text at a different point based on their needs and experiences.  By connecting it back to the text through conversation, we are focusing our discussion on the one thing we all share in common...the text.  It is those different entry points that will enrich our discussion and provide opportunity for all readers to find or affirm the point that solidifies their thinking.

Thank you to Cyber PD and to the blogging community for helping me to realize that reading experiences matter and that when we share them...it is priceless.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Inquiry...reaching all students

Inquiry workshop is a model that I have incorporated into my classroom to create a predictable structure for students to act on their curiosity.  The inquiry workshop I have developed has a more informational text focus that revolves around curiosity, engagement, research, and presentation of new knowledge.  But does this model work for all students?  Can students be curious in different avenues?

To kick off the school year, I also begin with a series of inquiry-based activities to further reach my students that are more hands-on, more visual, and more interdependent.  Not only do I want to encourage language that includes what to do next if something is unsuccessful, but I also want to encourage listening to each other, brainstorming, and adjusting plans based on feedback/trial and error.  During the first few weeks of school, I use Design Squad Project Ideas to promote...

  • brainstorming
  • designing
  • building
  • testing
  • redesigning
  • team work
  • conversations


First, we watch Episode 110: Pumped from Season One.  (free on their website!)  We discuss the levels of conversations, parts of inquiry, and teamwork that occurs as two teams face off to build a manual contraption that puts water on the slides at their local YMCA.

Next, we use Wonderopolis 236: How Long is the Longest Bridge for examining bridges.  Little do they know that I am supporting them with background knowledge to attempt their first Design Squad Challenge... How to create a table that will hold a book using one piece of cardboard, a heavy book, masking tape, and 8 sheets of newspaper...it is called the Paper Table Challenge. (Last year's class designed a table that held 32 books!)  Our focus is more on conversations, meaningful observations, and determining variables while examining scientific inquiry.  We also do the Pop Fly Challenge and a Marshmallow Construction Activity in teams.  All year long the students beg for more Design Squad Challenges.  Design Squad by PBS is a great resource for promoting inquiry, community, mistakes, and accomplishments in the classroom at the beginning of the year.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Opening Minds...Cyber PD...Part two

As I read through chapters 4-6, I found myself rereading two specific thoughts.  The two thoughts that I kept going back to did not contain information that was unknown to me, but "eloquently-put" known information that challenged myself to think deeply about past thoughts and develop them into new territories.  (This week's host is Jill at My Primary Passion.)

"Uncertainty is the foundation of inquiry and research." (page 59)

One of my strongest beliefs is that my students are in a classroom that not only appreciates wonder, but that the students in my classroom are surrounded by language and structures that nudge them to act on their wonder in the form of curiosity through conversations, questions, and facts.  Peter Johnston emphasizes the point that it is this uncertainty that promotes dialogue among the students and creates a structure that is an avenue to learning and inspiring new questions.  As I begin to create my "skeleton" of a schedule for the upcoming year, it reminds me how important an inquiry workshop can be to support dialogue, wonder, informational text, vocabulary, and purposes for learning in the classroom.

My vision for my inquiry workshop this fall still takes place in a consecutive three-day format.  (With this being said, this is not the only opportunity that the students have for the inquiry process or dialogue from uncertainty.)  The inquiry workshop format I use is to ensure that I have a structure in place that is predictable for the students and fosters each student's curiosity within our curriculum and our world.  Here is the structure I am envisioning for our inquiry workshop during the first quarter of the school year.  The structure of the workshop changes as we go through the year, but starts off predictable and guided.  On Day One...I use Wonderopolis.org as a mentor text for modeling strategies and concepts that involve informational text. The Wonder of the Week that I pick integrates back to the curriculum that we are studying in any content area.  This is when we "quick write" about the wonder to build writing stamina and appreciate known knowledge, watch a less than five minute clip to stimulate background knowledge or wonder beyond the known information, annotate on the text, and formulate new wonderings through dialogue to celebrate the information called "I did not know that YET, but now I know so what am I thinking NEXT?"  On Day Two...I provide a variety of picture books or informational text on the topics that were developed through their new wonderings/conversations on Day One.  Students use the text to have dialogue about what was uncertain and share the new information they have found.  Mini-lessons include how to use text features to find a topic in an informational text, how to draw conclusions from text features, how to draw conclusions if your answer was not found explicitly, etc...  During first quarter, I gather the books for the students so we can focus on text patience (they are use to finding the answer right away with the Internet), manipulating an informational text for a specific purpose, sharing new information, and steering away from formal research. We then add additional wonders based on Day Two's "known" information.  On Day Three, we use the laptops to inspire dialogue and media reading.  Same process as Day Two but with a technology focus.  Many times our research goes back to Wonderopolis.org.

Here is an example of what occurred last year for one student:
Day One: I modeled a strategy with  Wonder 236 How Long is the Longest Bridge?
Day Two: The student researched the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
Day Three:  The same student used Wonder 329 to answer their questions about fog.
See the connection?  Bridge...Golden Gate/San Francisco...Fog


My second thought...Last week I mentioned that I thought "next" should be added to the list of single words that change everything.  Here are some quotes I read this week that build upon that thought...

"Adding "Could you think of other ways that would also work?" is even better because it invites children to imagine alternative strategies..." (page 40)

"This has two advantages.  First, it takes what the child has already done and turns it into a successful agentive experience.  Second, rather than starting from scratch, it starts instruction with something the child already knows." (page 47)

"After responding to a piece of writing, showing that you are taking the writing and the writer seriously, you might offer a potential causal process." (page 46)






Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Time to make a list...

The back-to-school flyers are starting to appear in the newspapers on Sunday and the school supply section at the stores are quickly filling up with supplies and teachers!  Preparing for my "teacher" school supply trip to the store sometimes feels like training for the Olympics!  I am watching competitors trying to find the best deals, practicing "check out" maneuvers to make sure that all of my notebooks are actually 50 cents each since the store placed a limit on the price, and preparing my response to the store clerk when they ask, "So...I am guessing you are a teacher?".  I guess my obsession with 25 folders exactly the same color and notebooks meticulously counted out are a dead give away! :)  Time to make the list!

Every year I organize things differently.  Here is my list for this year's adventure...

Example of our reading graph
Reader's Notebooks:  I am going to use a three-ring binder with three sections...my reading, my thinking, and my clubs.  "My Reading" will hold our reading graphs that contain our reading goals and collect the titles of books that we have read to help with analyzing our independent reading for future goals.  "My Thinking" will hold any annotating, previewing, big questions, etc... I am also going to use a spiral notebook for "thinking on the go" that is easy to take to a table, write on the floor, or put in a bookbag.  "My Clubs" will hold any thinking that comes from books that were with a group or a book partner.
Needed:  one inch binder, three dividers, and a spiral notebook

Writer's Notebook:  I think this year I am going to use a composition notebook....sturdy pages, easy to decorate the cover, and can hold all writing from the year.  I will also need a folder with three prongs for our ABC's of Fourth Grade writing that we do on Fridays.  I want this to be in a different space since it is a year long project.
Needed: composition notebook, folder with prongs

Example of analyzing vocab
in our word study notebook
Word Study Notebook:  I am still thinking on this one.  Sales...pressure!!!!  Last year I used a composition notebook and did not feel it was "user friendly" for the year....only in the moment.  Would love ideas for this one!  This is a place to analyze vocabulary, hold lists of words, practice particular word work concepts.  Hmmmm....
Needed:  ideas!

Wondering Notebook:  This is a notebook that I use for Inquiry Workshop.  Last year I used a composition notebook.  It is a place that we record things we wonder about, collect photos, articles, etc...that we want to "wonder" more about during Inquiry Workshop.  We also record any research or facts that we collect to help answer our questions.
Needed: composition notebook

Math Notebook:  I am trying something new this year.  A three subject notebook!  The first section will  be vocabulary, "my words"....a place to analyze or collect important vocabulary.  The second section will be "my thinking"...a place to write about what the student would do with an "open ended" response or share strategies for the way they view a particular math concept.   The third section will be "writing about math"...this section will be for more specific thinking that might have more specific constraints.
Needed: three subject spiral notebook

Whew!  No worries...some of these supplies are already on their supply lists, some are not...but this made me realize that I have not given "word study" enough thought yet!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Opening Minds...Cyber PD


This is my first year joining Cyper Pd.  I am excited to experience what others have chosen to discuss, the connections that they have made, their interpretation of the text and the pieces of evidence that support or stimulate more thinking, and to read everyone's perspective.   This Cyper Pd event is sponsored by Cathy, Jill, and Laura.  Cathy at Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community has a blog post that connects all of our thinking.  Check it out!

"Sometimes a single word changes everything." (page 2)

Opening Minds
Words like "yet" and "already" can completely shift a child's thinking toward the idea that nothing is permanent about what is known and not known in our classrooms.  I think I want to add a third one..."next".  One of the most powerful questions I ask during inquiry workshop...is what are you wondering next?  Now that you know this information in the present...where is it taking you next?  In reading workshop..."Where does this book take you next?" Our goal is not unknown information to new information.  Our goal is to take known information to new levels and that learning continues into new territories and goal setting.  These words fall into a past (already), present (next), and future (yet) sequence.  It is our "conversational jazz" (page 4) that provides us with opportunities to say something and make a choice to affect what happens next...making the most of the opportunities children offer us.


"In a dynamic world, when you run into difficulty it just means things are becoming more interesting.  Challenging activities present no threat, only the promise of learning something new." (page 12)

I keep thinking of the Common Core....reading words like rigor and text complexity over and over...


"The more you learn, the smarter you get, and though it can involve hard work, learning is the goal." (page 12).
At the beginning of the year I use the resource, You're Smarter Than You Think.  It has interest inventories in it that match the multiple intelligences.  It is a great activity to learn about our ourselves, our strengths, and the types of intelligences that we do not have much experience with YET.  I have the students then put their results on a pie graph.  Every intelligence gets at least a "slither" on the pie graph because we all have interests inside of us.  Some have just not been experienced YET.  I also use the book, How We Are Smart.  This book contains poems about 12 people in our world and encourages the reader to wonder if they see a little bit of themselves in that person.
How We Are Smart

Sunday, July 1, 2012

My OLW: different types of listening...

I always spend June "looking back"...reflecting on the school year, my beliefs, determining where evidence of my beliefs could have been found in my classroom, and so on.  I also started to "double dip" this June.  Along with reflecting, I know that I need to spend some time this summer with the Common Core.  I feel like a child learning to ride a bike.  I have to keep looking at it, thinking about it, reading it, and wondering about it.  The one area I decided to jump into this June was the Speaking and Listening Standards.  Why there?  Not sure.  Maybe it is because my "one little word" is listening.  Who knows!

I am still working through the Common Core Speaking and Listening Standards and realizing that this section was typically the last one I read and I am very grateful that this time around it was my first.  I started researching about types of listening.  I came across this summary of a research article on dialogic listening and a blogpost that provides a distinction between the different types of listening.  After reading them, I am beginning to think that the Speaking and Listening Standards are asking our students to "listen" at a new level and that structures will need to be put in place in our classrooms to support this new type of critical listening and conversation.

PS... I also realized that I have spent my first few weeks of summer using listening for enjoyment and appreciating life around me.


Enjoy other OLW reflections at:
Maria @ Teaching in 21