Friday, January 23, 2015

When I Stopped to Listen to My Classroom~ OLW

This week I am taking a second to #celebratelu a few gems I heard when I stopped to ….


Thanks Ruth for being such a gracious hostess! 

Sitting in a quiet chair, in my comfy pajamas and just listening to my week~ 

 I heard...

 6 year old bravery...
Sofia and Ani learned how to "App Smash" (embed a Voicethread into a blog post) and they did this one all by their little 6 year old selves! 

amazement and awe...
After listening to her class discuss Ruby Bridge's acts of bravery and perseverance D innocently replies~ "She changed the world for everybody."

I am a reader with purpose and intention...

This reader combed through 4 books tubs looking for ONE specific book HE wanted to read! 

perseverance ...
After working for several days to craft her love of Pete the Cat into a blog post she drafted this! 

 author an make intentional decisions...
After receiving feedback that the page on the left was difficult to read the author chose a new tool to allow him to write smaller and adjusted the size of his letters to make them stretch across the page without "smooching up at the edge."

what I have always dreamed of hearing...

This first grader remembered our FIRST read aloud together! 

What is your saying to you? 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Celebrate~ this week- working with preservice teachers

Ruth Ayers of Discover. Play. Build. invites  us to share weekly celebrations, big or small, on her blog. This week I am jumping in, celebrating my opportunity to work alongside a preservice teacher!   Thanks Ruth for hosting! 

As an educator I see my role in the classroom as a learner and a mentor.  I see it as my responsibility to know the students and to work with the students in establishing a community where we can flourish and make choices that guide us to new learning and new questions that reflect the interest and values of the members.  Knowing the students in our classroom requires us to listen, ask questions and guide in a way that not only allows choice, but in a way that necessities choice. 

I am currently working alongside a preservice teacher, Mary Kay, in our first grade classroom.  The benefits of having another teacher in the classroom are obvious, but the responsibilities aren't often as clear.  I approach this responsibility each day with the knowledge that one day Mary Kay will have a unique classroom of her own, full of diverse learners and a plethora of choices.  Mary Kay will need to be reflective in her practice as a teacher and a learner to guide her students in a way that respects their needs and values.  She will also need to be reflective in how she builds her educational beliefs and establishes a style unique to herself and true to her beliefs about education. 

The challenge to me each day is in explaining those instructional decisions that take us away from our plans and lead us to follow our children and how abandoning the best laid plans makes us better teachers and gives our students more opportunities.  After teaching for over 20 years these moves just seem to be a part of who I am and how I teach, but when I am challenged with explaining this I realize just how much intention is behind these seemingly natural diversions.  

So today I am celebrating the opportunity to work with Mary Kay and help her to find her way into a classroom that respects student's choices and opens the doors to new opportunities for learning for her and her students.  The responsibilities of being a teacher are changing everyday, but if we accept these changes as new opportunities and keep an open mindset our job remains consistent, it's just the how that brings new challenges. 

I would love to hear from others who are working alongside preservice teachers! How you are supporting the journey?  

Mary Kay is on Twitter @MkGrove12  let's get our preservice teachers connected and started on their own PLN! 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Letting Go and Opening The Classroom For Learning

Choice Brings Agency and Focus~
The multitude of choices open to learners today has brought more authenticity and agency to our classroom. The opportunities available has refocused how we plan, work and learn, and our roles as student and teacher. Student choice is encouraged not only in the way we learn, but also in how and what we learn.  Students choose from iPads, computers and apps as easily and freely as paper, pencil, markers, and crayons. Students choice focuses and drives learning and inquiry.   

Classroom Community and Choice~
A student led classroom requires a strong community. Taking time to build a trusting learning community must be intentionally taught. Developing a classroom community strengthened my trust in
the students.  I trust them to be responsible for their learning and to make choices for their learning. We work together to solve problems, manage the classroom, and grow as learners. This work builds a sense of ownership that enables students to feel pride and power in the classroom and the learning. This creates engaged learners who work to take care of our space, each others and themselves.
Classroom Structure is Key~
In order for students to become purposeful in how they plan and work, they need to know they will have time to explore the tools and to make choices in their work. We need to create a that schedule that is predictable and open for choice kids can count on. We need to schedule time for choice everyday. Our classroom runs in a workshop model. The workshop structure of our day gives students the opportunity to make theses decisions.  Each workshop begins with a focus lesson designed to support students in the work they will be doing later. The focus lesson ends with students envisioning the work they will do in the workshop.  As the students enter the workshop they begin by selecting their space, books, tools, and how they will work, in a partnership, a small group or independently. Students spread out on the floor, in beanbags, at tables or tucked in corners.  Some curl up in one task the entire workshop, others create ways to share their learning. They might create a poster to show their thinking or create a VoiceThread to ask others to join a conversation. Some may invite a friend to conference. Some may choose to blog about learning and still others visit the media center or conference with in the common space between our three first grade classroom with a friends from another classroom, (this is another post- later).  The workshop is full of choice each day the students count on this time and often come in in the morning with plans already made.  

Our New Roles~
So what does all this choice mean to our roles as student and teacher? It means We are guided by the students interest, needs and discoveries and we are all learners. It also means there are 23 teachers and students. The kids are independent and find they can learn from and with each other. During the work part of our workshops we are conferring and meeting with small groups, with an individual, or alone. All along I am monitoring the classroom and student progress to guide my planning and our next steps together.  No longer am I coming into the week with a preset agenda or project. I come into the classroom with questions and possibilities, the lesson design comes from the kids and becomes personalized and authentic. I think it’s important to remember the one doing the most work is doing the most learning.  

Monday, January 5, 2015

How Has Your Teaching Changed?

Our classroom hasn’t always been as it is today.  Just a few years back the only tools available were paper, pencils, crayons and markers. The only choices available were made by the teacher.  The way I think about choice in the classroom has evolved. Choice allows students to work with passion, independence and purpose. Choice builds life long learners and this is something I wanted to instill my students.

Finding the Support to Make the Change~
I didn’t make these changes all by myself.  I’ve had the support of my Personal Learning Network (PLN). These are educators who push my thinking and share their journeys openly. I find them in my building, my district, neighboring districts and all around the globe.  The best part is I can always find them on twitter and on their blogs.  This is my learning community, I feel safe to ask questions, take risk and share my journey. The big question became "How do I build this learning community in my classroom?"

Building a Learning Community~
A strong community is key in building a learning community. We allowed ourselves the time to learn to respect others, our space and communication. We can’t assume kids know the meaning of these words, they’re just too important.  We have to take the time to teach the students what it means to be a member of a trusting learning community.  It means feeling safe to take risk, try new things and to follow their needs as a learners.  

Making the Change~
Changing the way I approach my classroom and my instruction took conscience decisions; an open mindset, bravery and trust.  These decisions gave me permission to follow the kids and what I know about teaching and learning. These decisions released a passion I didn’t know I had.  As educators we know ourselves, we know our students and we know what kids need.  If you’re in education for the kids, you’re following the needs of the kids and trusting yourself and the students how could you go wrong?  I truly don’t think you can!

Please Join Me~
Making these changes changed the way I plan, teach, meet with students and the way I see my role as teacher. I hope you will share your journey with me and return to hear more about our classroom journey. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Listen to My One Little Word~

I have been reading post and tweets about One Little Word (OLW) for a few years.  The thought of OLW being present in your day is intriguing.  I find it fascinating how one word can open opportunities and provide purpose to our lives.  I haven't publicly declared OLW, but I have noticed OLW chasing me and filtering my thoughts and choices.

The OLW that has been speaking to me and in everything I do is perspective.  Perspective reminds me others have different views based on their life stories.  Perspective reminds me to consider different ways of looking at things.  We can be quick to consider (or even judge) events in life from our own perspective, leading us to false assumptions.  I have found pausing to consider the intentions of others opens my mind and allows better understanding and more positive thoughts.

The Power of Words~
Having felt the power of OLW lurking about I have decided to declare OLW for 2015.  I am choosing a word that will enable me to be more present in my life.  As the mom of a high school senior and college junior and a teacher of 6 and 7 year olds I am reminded daily how fast life changes. Unfortunately, I am also reminded how often I am distracted.  My body is in the room, but my mind if drifting to what's next.  I am missing the power of words, feelings, needs and questions all be directed to me. I am missing the opportunity to learn, understand and grow with those around me.

Being Present in the Moments of Now~
So in 2015 I will be more present, I will learn from others, I will have a growing awareness of others thoughts, questions and needs. In 2015 I will listen with intention.  I will listen with the purpose of understanding.

As I was pondering what OLW might be looking for me and whether I would declare OLW in 2015 I goggled One Little Word… here's where I landed.  I think my OLW and I have officially met.
 "Wisdom will come as we listen to learn." --Russell M. Nelson

Monday, October 13, 2014

Shelfari~ Another Tool in Building Wild Readers!

The day started out like any other day. Kids filled the room with book bags, conversations and questions.  That's when I noticed one student vying quietly for my time.  Stopping to listen more intently I saw M's HUGE smile. M isn't one to seek attention so I knew this was going to BIG!  I leaned down to listen and M was almost giddy as she told me she had her own shelf on Shelfari!

As a first grade teacher I have used Shelfari for the past few years. We've kept track of the books we've read as a class and shared our reading with others.  Each year students quickly catch "Shelfari fever" and begin creating shelves (with their parents) and sharing their home reading with our class as we follow the shelves of their peers.  This year started off much the same, but something was different.

So What's Different This Year?

First, I noticed almost all the kids in our class had shelves (all but 3, all but 1 to date)!  The excitement in our room was palpable and begged to be shared! So we tweeted out our class shelf and started following the shelves of the others first grade classes in our building. Of course this led to sharing and borrowing books among the classrooms! Now the fever was viral... kids started viewing the shelves of their friends during readers workshop. "I am just looking to see what books we have in common" Nathan.  Josh took this one step further and began to jot down books requests for his friends! "Logan, can I borrow your book Homer?"  It wasn't long before the kids began to make a special request...
"Mrs. Frazier, you need to tweet out my shelf." These requests came without urgency, no questions just a simple request, because it's is just what readers do, they share books!

Best Laid Plans~
What teacher wouldn't readjust carefully made plans looming on the iPad and make a few tweets? So as a class we sat down to "tweet out" a few shelves. I looked at all the hands shooting up and I knew the tweets needed to reflect their excitement, so I asked ….
                        "What does having a Shefari account mean to you?"

Ani's Shelf

Nicky's Shelf

Alandra's Shelf

Blaine's Shelf

Diya's Shelf

As I typed these tweets my heart filled with pride, these readers aren't becoming Wild Readers, they are Wild Readers and its my honor to support their journey. ~ I love my job!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Best Part of Teaching~ Learning alongside the kids!

One of the best things about teaching is learning alongside and FROM the kids in my class. I mean how could I possibly think that out of a classroom of 22 first graders (and on a great day 3 adults), I am going to be the one with all the ideas?  If I am being honest, the best ideas in our classroom are not planned and they don't come from me.  The beast ideas, the ones worth their weight in gold come from watching the kids and allowing myself to follow! 

Our classroom follows a workshop format throughout the day. Each workshop ends with an opportunity for students to share work, ask question and gain feedback from peers.  To share our work we gather in a circle and I asks for volunteers or call on students to share. Share time is a powerful part of our workshops.

This year the share routine has taken on a whole new dynamic and the credit goes to the first graders!  As we gathered in a circle following reading workshop the kids began to spread their books out in front of them and conversations began immediately. 

“I have that book at home.  Where did you find that book?  Can I read that tomorrow?  Oh, I love that one, the pigeon is funny. I like when he runs down the street naked!" (Thanks David Shannon) 

The overwhelming spontaneity of their comments made it clear they were already book lovers and they wanted to talk about books!  So I simply asked, “Please raise your hand if you see a book you would like to know more about or one that you want to talk about with your friends. “  Hands flew up and the conversations that followed were natural.  The conversations were about the story,  the characters and their genuine joy of the book. The book talk grew as others built on the questions and comments of their friends.  I didn’t need to remind anyone to speak louder, look at the speaker or think about what others were saying. This was a conversation they owned and they were invested. 
The readers were learning about books, how to talk about books and the satisfaction of being a part of a reading community.  Not only did this authentic conversation show me exactly where the kids are as readers, but it also showed the readers how conversations around books bring books to life and how readers connect through books. Readers also gained insight into the variety of books that live in our classroom and the opportunities read brings to a community of readers. In my quest to develop Wild Readers (not just school readers) I think this is a step in building readers who will continue to seek reading community.

The power of student lead share circle has "leaked" into our writing workshop and  has added another level of learning and motivation for our young writers.  as they gather for writing share they lay their writing in front of them and cross their fingers they are asked to share.  They are learning first hand what appeals to their audience (working to have a friend request to hear their story) and what the readers want to know more about.  When writers hear the questions and comments of their friends they are naturally motivated to add more information to their writing .  The audience gains writing ideas, support and the opportunity to learn from other writers. They are witnessing first hand what it means to have mentor authors and to be a part of a community of writers. 

Working out the Kinks~ 
As with anything there is room for improvement. I am still pondering~
  • How can make sure students who really want to share have the opportunity? (Maybe the solution will be a digital share?)
  • How can I make sure their is equity in who is chosen to share?  I don't want the same writers to share each day, but I do want the kids to push themselves as writers to have their work selected. 
  • I need to make sure kids learn how to comment and challenge friends in a way that makes us all feel valued and capable. 
  • I need to make sure the kids understand we are unique and we all progress in our own time and in on our own way.  (Amy Krouse Rosenthal has a few GREAT books for this kink.)