Story ADVENTures Await on Winter Break! Book Talk Countdown

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(*See updated photos at the bottom of this post)

Like me, I’m sure you’re in countdown mode. Countdown to the winter break. And also like me, I’m sure you’re thinking about what you can accomplish in these few precious weeks. You’re setting goals such as: Get in one more read aloud before break; Launch and wrap-up new reading and writing units before the break; Teach two or three new spelling patterns. We know these weeks will fly by quickly! We’re ready for the fast pace of these weeks, and secretly, we enjoy the challenge.

Usually, the weeks fly by so fast that my students and I arrive at the day before vacation and frantically make decisions about which books we want to read over the break. Not this year though. This year I’ve created a plan to help my students select books prior to the break. I’m calling it my “Countdown to Winter Break! What Will You Be Reading?” It’s similar to a holiday advent calendar. Based on student recommendations and surveys, I’m going to put up a book cover each day and do a quick book talk. I’m hoping to create some buzz around these 15 books in hopes that my students will want to read them over the vacation. I want my students to create a Winter Break Wish List. I’ll keep you posted with my progress!

Update– 12.4.15- Here is my first week of using the bulletin board. It’s going so well! I’m so glad I created it!

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Update– 12.14.15  Woah, it’s almost that time!

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Typically found wearing mismatched socks, Dana Johansen spends her time teaching fifth grade in Connecticut, negotiating with her yellow lab about doggy dinner options, and plopping down on the floor in bookstore aisles to find new reads. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop.

 

 

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Happy Thanksgiving! Reading Inspires Good Deeds

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 7.19.30 AMHave you ever read a book to your students and they scream out, “We want to do that too!” I can think of many books where this has happened. For example, after reading The Dot by Peter Reynolds, every student wanted to make a unique dot. After reading Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger, every student wanted to create an origami puppet based on a favorite book character. And after reading Earrings by Judith Viorst, everyone wanted to write a persuasive letter or essay. I am so grateful to these authors for inspiring my young readers to try new things and take up new causes.

Recently, my students and I have been reading Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea, and a scene in the book inspired good deeds for Thanksgiving. If you’ve read Because of Mr. Terupt then you know this scene well. It is the scene where Mr. Terupt creates a classroom incentive program. He suspends a paper-link chain from the ceiling and each day his students can earn a link to add to the chain. Once the chain hits the floor, his students can do something special. After reading this scene aloud, my students felt inspired to make a paper-link chain also. But our chain was different.

We decided that we would add links to the chain if we did good deeds. Each morning we discussed our good deeds and added links to the chain. This fostered great conversations each morning and started each day off with a positive feeling. We loved adding links to our chain and felt proud of the good deeds we were doing. We had only one problem- what would we do when the links hit the floor? Earning a reward for doing good deeds seemed contrary to the purpose of our paper-link chain. So we decided that if our paper-link chain reached the floor we would purchase and donate a frozen turkey to give to a local organization that provided turkeys to families in need on Thanksgiving. My students were energized by this cause. They wanted to do good deeds and give back to the community.

Today I am proud because our paper-link chain touched the floor. We all cheered this morning in celebration. Our 14 pound Butterball turkey (fondly referred to as Bubba) is on its way to a family for Thanksgiving. Thank you to all the authors who inspire my students to be creative, take on new initiatives, and get involved by taking action. Your writing is making a difference in the lives of children. Thank you!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

 

Typically found wearing mismatched socks, Dana Johansen spends her time teaching fifth grade in Connecticut, negotiating with her yellow lab about doggy dinner options, and plopping down on the floor in bookstore aisles to find new reads. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop.

The Symbolism of The Seasons

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Autumn is my absolute favorite time of year. It is the season I feel most comfortable in every way. But what I’m most drawn to about autumn is that it is a season of transformation. How do I transform in autumn? I’ll borrow from Cynthia Rylant’s craft demonstrated in her book In November for my response. Recurring a line is a  go-to strategy I encourage my students to use, especially those who have a hard time getting started.

In November image

In autumn, the weather invites me to take long walks with my dog, Mia. Unlike the muggy, humid air we detest in summer, we are greeted with bright, crisp breezes that encourage us to walk for miles.

In autumn, I am a photographer. My eyes feast on a symphony of colors that inspire me to take lots of photographs of my surroundings. Leaves are ubiquitous in summer and autumn. But in autumn, they’re not ignored; they’re treasured jewels! Everywhere I rest my eyes, there’s a masterpiece waiting to be captured by my cell phone camera.

In autumn, I look better than in any other season. (If I don’t say so myself!) My fall wardrobe camouflages what I want to hide, unlike my spring and summer clothes, without adding bulk, which is the inevitable consequence of heavy, winter clothes.

In autumn, I am a chef! Savory soups and stews; tender roasts with seasonal vegetables; and zesty pastas are on the menu straight from my kitchen each night. And what’s better than a warm, homemade apple pie on a chilly evening at home? Nothing.

In autumn, I return to my classroom, where I feel most alive. The excitement of being with children and embarking on new reading and writing adventures awakens me from the lazy days of summer.

Simply put, in autumn I change. It is the season where I return to being my most authentic self.

Recently, my 6th graders read Early Autumn by Langston Hughes where we highlighted our copy of this text each time a reference to, or characteristic of, autumn is made. As a result, students discovered the autumn is the third character of this short story, symbolically representing the relationship between Bill and Mary.

I asked my 6th graders to think about the symbolism of the seasons. I asked them to capture some of the characteristics of, and associations with each of the four seasons. It was interesting to hear some of their ideas about the symbolism of the seasons. They’re working on this handout, The Symbolism of Seasons, in small groups:

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 9.56.23 PMNext week, I’ll post some of their responses and share what our next steps will be as writers.

 

Sonja is a purple-enthusiast who teaches English Language Arts to 6th and 7th graders in Westchester, NY. She is the proud Editor-In-Chief of quartet, a literary magazine written and created by her 7th grade students. When not at school, Sonja spends hours negotiating with her chocolate Cockapoo and golden German Shepherd mix about who gets to play with which bone.  Sonja is a Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards committee member and a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University .

Creating Class Rules for Blogging

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 4.48.48 AMI struggled to create blogging rules when I first began blogging with my students. In the beginning, I was panicked that students would not approach blogging as a serious form of academic writing. I had nightmares thinking that they wouldn’t use punctuation, capitalization, or complete sentences. My first set of rules for blogging looked like the ones on the right. Ah! How scary! This was not an effective way to teach students how to blog and be part of a community of bloggers. My second attempt was much better! Here are some of my recommendations:

To begin, show students examples of blogs that you love reading. For example, I use the Nerdy Book Club blog. I might also use the Oh She Glows blog and my favorite dessert recipe. Yum! Talk about why you like reading blogs. Why is this an important form of writing? Why do people blog? Why is it important to write about the things you are passionate about?

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 4.48.37 AMNext, look at examples your students might know. For instance, look at Wonderopolis and National Geographic for Kids. Talk about what why these sites are fun and informative to read.

Then, practice using your classroom blog. Have everyone try writing a post. This gives them experience using a blog prior to writing rules for blogging (because, after all, how can they create rules about something they’ve never tried?)

After reading the responses on the blog, talk about rules. Phrase all of the rules in a positive tone. Rules like “Help everyone feel welcome to share their ideas and posts” sets a positive tone that everyone can feel good about.

Also consider talking to your students about digital citizenship. Scholastic has great resources about blogging that relate to these conversations. While classroom blogs are password protected and have limited features, students need to be aware that any form of e-writing leaves a digital footprint. They should always be cautious, never reveal personal information, and present themselves and their work in a respectful manner.

 

Typically found wearing mismatched socks, Dana Johansen spends her time teaching fifth grade in Connecticut, negotiating with her yellow lab about doggy dinner options, and plopping down on the floor in bookstore aisles to find new reads. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop.

 

The Digital Workshop- Access

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 5.59.46 PMWhen I began creating a Digital Workshop in my classroom, I wondered how I would make it accessible to my students. How would they access my flipped lessons, digital bins, and our class blogs?

I’ve used several strategies for helping my students access these digital learning tools. I’ve used QR codes and a bulletin board with them displayed (pictured). QR codes are great to use if you have tablets in your classroom. I have one tablet in my classroom and it functions as a listening center, digital bin center, blogging tool (mostly for pictures and recording apps), and a way Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 6.00.16 PMstudents can learn from flipped lessons. For more information about how to use QR codes see my post about their use in the classroom.

Another way to set up your digital workshop is on your classroom blog or website. If your students use Chromebooks or computers they can easily access your classroom blog. You can create a page on the blog with links that direct them to the learning tools they are looking for. Also, teachers have used a shared Google Doc that contains all the links. This is an efficient way to give your students access.

 

Typically found wearing mismatched socks, Dana Johansen spends her time teaching fifth grade in Connecticut, negotiating with her yellow lab about doggy dinner options, and plopping down on the floor in bookstore aisles to find new reads. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop.