Tuesday, June 30, 2015

#5BookFriday and It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

So if you are looking for a way to build a lot of excitement in your classroom around reading, try #5BookFriday and a weekly rendition of It's Monday, What Are You Reading? These are two literacy ideas that I saw this year from reading literacy blogs and looking at Twitter. I learned about both of these ideas from the blog https://innovateigniteinspire.wordpress.com/ by Kristin Ziemke and Katie Muhtaris. I tried both of these ideas in the classroom in January and they sure have evolved!


One of our 1st weeks of #5BookFriday!

My students LOVED #5BookFriday so much that they would eagerly anticipate Friday afternoon just to hear about the latest 5 books! I would pick out 5 books that I wanted to share with the class and motivate them to read. I would pull either new books that I had ordered through Scholastic, new books from our school library, old favorites of mine that I felt needed a special "look at" from the students,  or a theme of books around a certain topic or genre. After about 6 weeks of sharing books, students started asking if they could share 5 books on #5BookFriday. I made a schedule for the rest of the year and they would eagerly await their turn. Some weeks I didn't assign anyone the task so that I could share books with the class. I kind of missed sharing my favorites every week! 
The excitement that was built around this activity was amazing.  After 5 students were chosen to read the books, I would take a picture of the students with their "new reads" and post it on Twitter with 

So many new titles were shared, 
so many students received some great book recommendations for future reads, 
so many students thought about their "Top 5" books that they would share, 
so many students sat in anticipation of what books would be pulled out of the bag,
so many students would have to decide if they wanted to read that book or wait for maybe a better one to come out of the bag, 
so many students heard the excitement around these books and it helped them as readers, 
so many students wanted to share and be part of #5BookFriday,
so many more books were read because of #5BookFriday,
so....I deemed it a classroom success!  

How to do it...
1. Choose 5 books(sometimes I did 6 because I JUST couldn't decide...)
2. Put the books in a bag(easy)
3. Share out each book to your students(with lots of excitement)
4. Pick someone in the class to read each book(often the book has a line of students wanting it when they are done reading it)
5. Take a picture of the students with their books(students can do this as well)
6. Tweet a picture of the students with #5BookFriday

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

If you are a blogger, you probably know about "It's Monday, What Are You Reading?" 
I used to participate in "IMWAYR" for some of my blog posts. I enjoyed reading the different blogs and seeing what others were reading both in the classroom and professionally. I decided this fall to start a classroom version of "IMWAYR" and this is what it looked like...
Pretty simple...they wrote it up on chart paper in the morning.

Over time, this started to evolve. I saw a post about doing this activity on Padlet in the classroom and I thought it was a brilliant idea! Since we are a 1-1 iPad classrom, we could easily do this using padlet. This was one of our first tries. 

It was a decent first effort, but with anything we have learned a lot and improved our posts. I started asking for more specifics and pushing for higher quality posts since anyone could view them on Twitter, in our newsletter, or on our blog! 

 Here is an example from the end of February...

The students really enjoyed posting to Padlet each week and sharing their book. They also were able to get some great book recommendations from reading each other's posts. There were many times when they posted their first post and then I made them go back to revise their work and improve it. As a teacher, you can also go in and delete any extraneous posts or posts that do not represent the expectations of the classroom. 

We then got a little crazy at the end of the year and tried to go global! We would complete our Padlet and then send it out via Twitter around the world. We asked classrooms to add to the Padlet to share their reading. We were pretty excited to see other students from as far away as Canada adding to our Padlet. 

We will definitely continue this next year and try to have others add to it as well in order to foster collaboration and connection across the country and even farther. This was an activity that we did in class that really added to our learning and helped to foster a love of reading and a strong culture of reading in our classroom! 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Reflections on ANOTHER Year!

ANOTHER year is in the books! I think that this is the end of year 14 for me! Between staying home with my girls and moving, I lose track of the years each year!  It's the end of June and I finally have some time to sit down and write down my thoughts about the past school year. Reflection is always important for me because it helps me to figure out...
 -what to keep doing 
-what to stop doing 
- what to tweak and improve upon for the following year

This year, I know for sure that I want to keep the following...

-Genius Hour
-Personalized Learning opportunities 
-a Balanced Literacy approach to reading and writing
-End of the Year Writing Contest in my classroom
-Student Data Binders
-Goal Setting and Reflection
-Voice and Choice
-Global Read Aloud and World Read Aloud Day
-using Padlet in the classroom for collaboration and communication
-#5BookFriday(I NEED to do a blog post on this!) 
-engaging, hands-on STEM activities

This year, I want to stop the following...
-students talking over each other or not actively listening to each other
-students not being purposeful with their talk in the classroom
-students questioning the need to reflect on their work in the classroom
-students not being appropriately challenged in math when they are 2 or 3 grade levels ahead of our gifted math program
-wasted time
-letting writing time fall to the wayside 

Of course, I have grand ideas for all of the above and a stack of books to help with the above, but these are things that I seem to always struggle with each year.  I make a list about how I can be more intentional in my teaching around these things and how I can seek out help in these areas. If you have any suggestions...shoot them my way! 

This year, I want to tweak and improve upon the following...
-Discovery Quests-how can they be more meaningful and still be an excellent source of public speaking practice?
-Math Workshop-how I can set this up to reach all of my different learners and challenge my students appropriately
-Writing Workshop-how can I include more authentic writing time into my already tight schedule?
-Goal Setting-how can I be more purposeful in following up on SMART goals and making sure that SMART goals are written appropriately?
-Reflection-how can I continue to teach the importance of reflection and how it transfers over to everyday life?
-Authentic Assessment-how can I create more authentic assessments that are purposeful and truly measure learning? 

As you can see, I have a lot to think about and a lot to plan out as I sit by the pool in July and August! I'll keep you posted on what I come up with as it develops! Feel free to shoot me any ideas or suggested resources. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Power of Conferring

Conferring with students, conferencing one-on-one with students, individual conferences...whatever you want to call them...it can be so powerful when you take time to analyze and reflect on your work with the students. 

In January, I committed myself to ramp up my reading conferences. I wanted to make a concerted effort to meet with each student once a week. I had started off the year strong with conferences in September and October and then November and December were a bit more inconsistent. 

Since ramping up my conferences, I have had so many aha moments about the importance of conferring. I have conducted reading conferences since I started teaching in 1998. I had a wise friend who taught me (as a first-year teacher) to always point out a "praise point" and a "teaching point." She suggested I label it PP and TP while keeping anecdotal records and it is something I have done since 1998. I loved the idea of always praising a child for something, as well as finding a teaching point to focus on each time. Meaningful compliments or "praise points" are so important for building a trusting relationship with your students.  I usually only give out compliments for the first month of conferring, before I begin to give teaching points. Students are more receptive to the teaching points after you have built that safe and trusting relationship. I try to make our conferring sessions feel like a one-on-one laid back conversation about books. The students then WANT to come up and conference with you and will actually ask..."when is it my turn?"

An example of conferring notes
Over the years, I have experimented with many different ways of keeping track of my conferences. Post-it notes(no-way...they were all over the place), an anecdotal grid with each child's name in a box(this worked really well for me...but the papers would pile up over time), a whole class conferring binder(this ended up being a HUGE binder that was hard to carry around and would fall apart halfway through the year), and finally what I use now. Now I use 5 different colored binders, one for each day of the week with 5-6 names in each binder divided by tabs. I read about this idea from Steven Layne and his book, "Igniting a Passion for Reading." I love this idea because I can focus on a certain set of students each day. Inside these binders, I include certain reading assessments, my conferring notes, and other data that gives me a comprehensive picture of each reader. 

Color-coded binders for conferring

When meeting with the students, I love the conversations that we organically have around books. They share with me their thoughts about reading in 4th grade, how their reading lives have changed since the previous years, their thoughts about why they are loving their book, their thinking about their books, what they are wanting to read next, their feelings about themselves as readers, their passion for a certain genre or series....the list could go on! 

It's important to listen and to model "good listening" when conferring. (This can be hard with all that we have to manage and observe while conferring!) I usually only ask open-ended questions when I meet with my readers. I also will sit and wait for my students to respond or for them to elaborate on their thinking. I don't rush them through their thinking or through the conference. I sometimes need to paraphrase what they are saying to familiarize the student with academic language. I will name what the child is trying to say as inferencing or say that they are using their background knowledge and the text clues to help them make an inference. This helps the child recognize what they are doing as they are reading and reminds them about what an inference actually is. 
An example of my notes...I paraphrase in my notes.

There are so many possible ideas for teaching points and that is where you as the expert teacher gets to make the decision about what that child needs to work on next. Do they need to work on reading the punctuation, thinking deeper about the text by using strategies that you have given them, building their reading stamina, setting reading goals, slowing down to think about the book, tracking how a character changes throughout a text, or whatever else the child is ready for NEXT in their reading life!

When I sit and confer with my students, I have so many feelings of affirmation. It reminds me of why I teach reading the way I do (using the balanced literacy approach) and why I have the goal of teaching reading so that every child in my classroom LOVES to read and walks away with a lifelong love of reading. I want them to read the pages willingly, find phrases that resonate with them, stop and think about the author's writing, make connections to the text, reread pages that didn't make sense or are worth going back to reread, and think about how that book has enriched their reading life. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Using Padlet in the Classroom

A tool that I recently started using in the classroom is PADLET. I was familiar with it, but didn't know exactly how to incorporate it. We played around with it last year, but I didn't have much success.

What is PADLET? Padlet is basically an online bulletin board. A teacher can post a question, a link, or an image on the wall and the students can respond on the wall. It is a great way for students to collaborate and to be creative. I love it because I can see all of their work in ONE place. I can easily assess who has not completed the assignment and I can easily assess who needs to keep working on the assignment. Since others can see the wall, it encourages the students to do their BEST work and it gives them an authentic audience. 

One of our more recent Padlet posts.

I started out the year having my students respond to the prompt, "It's Monday, What Are You Reading?" I would write that phrase on a piece of chart paper and the students would write down the title of the book that they were reading and their name. The students loved doing this and it was a great way for the students to get some great book suggestions. Now I look back on that practice and laugh because Padlet has made it SOOOO much better! 

I read about creating a Padlet for "It's Monday, What Are You Reading?"in a blogpost by Kristin Ziemke. I thought that this idea was brilliant! What a great way to digitize my practice, adjust my expectations for my students, and to make our work public. Kristin Ziemke also helped me via Twitter figure out how to keep my Padlet neat and organized! Important note!!!! When setting up your padlet, go into settings(the cog wheel) and click on layout, then click on grid. This was life changing! The freeform layout did not do much for us and just caused us frustration! 

I started this in late December and continued it when we came back to school in January. I love it! The students have improved each week and they have referred back to the Padlets to get book ideas. 
We have focused on basic skills like capitalizing the title of our book and using punctuation to more complex skills like writing down the point of view of the story. We tweet them out every week from our class Twitter account @Skogstad_Class

Here are a couple of examples...

February 2nd Padlet

January 12th Padlet

January 5th Padlet

Another way that I have used Padlet is for Wonder Wednesday. Each Wednesday, I post a "wonder of the day." It is usually an article from Wonderopolis, but not necessarily. I just LOVE Wonderopolis, so I can usually find something good from their site! I post a link to the article on a Padlet and the students read the nonfiction article and respond to my prompt.  I choose articles that relate to our standards or something that we have been discussing in class. For example, we are currently reading A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. We have been discussing the water cycle and how the water supply can be different all around the world. I had the students read an article about water and then post a response on the Padlet.  They had to record a "thick question" that they would research further and then also write about what they learned. 

Another Padlet that they completed was an article that compared bacteria and viruses on Wonderopolis.   
They had to read the article and list in order the top 5 things that they learned.  They had to rank them in order by what they thought was the most important. This is what they came up with...
Viruses vs. Bacteria

We have had a lot of fun using Padlet. It is interactive, creative, collaborative, and fun to use! 
A sample of a Padlet post.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy 2015! Live it with #purpose!

Yesterday on New Year's Eve,  I received an email from my wonderful principal to check out a blog post about choosing a word for 2015. I took a look at it and thought that it was ingenious. I started to think about my word and I thought about that word on and off all day. I was first thinking about going with the word "challenge." I liked that word and almost committed to that word for the year. I was trying to find a word that I could easily use in both my personal and professional life.  Then I came across THE word...PURPOSE! 
As I get older, I want to live my life with purpose. I want to make the most of my days. I've kept a gratitude journal for the last 2 years and it's amazing how it changes your outlook on life and makes you appreciate all of the little things in life! Sun, flowers, green leaves, colorful leaves, laughter, solitude, a clean house, health....the list goes on! 

I want to focus on purpose this year. Purpose to me transcends everything. Purpose allows you to have joy, show gratitude, be challenged, focus on important things, be mindful and present, simplify your life, take risks, demonstrate your strengths, allows you to reflect and breathe and take time for yourself...all of which I need to work on in 2015. 

I want to have purpose with my family. 
I want to have purpose with my daughters.
I want to workout with a purpose.
I want to be healthy for a purpose. 
I want to eat for a purpose. 
I want to teach with purpose. 
I want my professional life to be filled with purpose. 
I want my friends to have a purpose.
I want to spend my free time with a purpose. 

So here's to 2015...and living with purpose

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Ten Ways to Use Pic Collage in the Classroom

One of my favorite apps to use as of late has been Pic Collage! My own kids use it at home, though not for educational purposes. I have found many fun ways to use it in the classroom. I love it because the students have choice in how they want to create their pic collage and they can show off their creativity. It is super easy for them to save their finished product to their camera roll and then export it from their. They have uploaded their creations to Schoology, Google Drive, Keynote, Explain Everything, etc. You can send your pic to Twitter or send it via email.  There are just a variety of ways to use your pics!

The one thing to caution you about is that there is a social media aspect to the app. I didn't know this right away. When I found this out, I had my students set their accounts to private to avoid any issues.

Below are some of he ways that I have used Pic Collage in the classroom...

10.  Students created pic collages about their Genius Hour topics and embedded them within their presentations. They would add the image to a keynote or website to showcase their topic. These were a great way for the students to show off their creativity and what they learned about their topic. 

9. A new twist on the old "genre poster." When studying genres, each student was given a genre to research with a partner. They added photos of different texts that matched their genre and added some text that explained their genre to create a genre poster. We then uploaded each genre poster to Schoology so that everyone could access them.  

8. During our read aloud of "Rump-The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin" the students created a settings poster. They added photos of the different settings from the story and labeled them with the text feature on Pic Collage. The students came up with beautiful setting posters for our read aloud. 

7. At the end of the month, students can create a pic collage of the books that they read that month. They could do this at the end of a grading period or even at the end of the year. They could then be saved to their camera roll and then uploaded to their Google Drive portfolio. 

6. Sequencing events in a story! Students can sequence the events in a story by adding pics to show the most important events from a story. They can then add transition words to show how the plot progressed over time. Students could then write a summary about the text that matches their Pic Collage. 

5. #piccollage Another way that we have used Pic Collage is to simply use it as a way to post on Twitter. I recently introduced #5BookFriday in my classroom after reading about it on a blog.  On Fridays, I introduce 5 books to my students and get some excitement going around the 5 titles. I then take a picture of the books or the students with the books and create a Pic Collage to post on Twitter or in my weekly newsletter. 

4. Poetry! Students created poems about our African Dwarf Frog...Squirt... that lived a short life. They wrote odes to Squirt and some students chose to create their poem on Pic Collage. Here is a little sample...they were cute!

3. One of the choices for word study is for students to take their word study words, type them into Pic Collage, and then add pictures that illustrate the words. Students love all of the choices that go along with Pic Collage and they do not even realize that they are studying their word study words because they are having so much fun creating their collages. 

2. Another way to use Pic Collage is to have students find examples of figurative language in their books and create a collage about onomatopoeia, similes, metaphors, personification, hyperbole, etc. They can then share out their examples with other students in the class and students can check to see if they identified the figurative language correctly. They can save it to their camera roll and then email me the pic that I can easily assess. 

1. Nonfiction Text Feature Posters! Students can find examples of nonfiction text features in books, take a picture of it on their iPad, and create a nonfiction text feature pic collage. They can add text to identify each feature. A great twist on our nonfiction text feature book! 

The possibilities are endless and FUN! 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Genius Hour...One Year Later!


     I have been madly getting ready for a Genius Hour presentation at the TIES 2014 Conference in MN next week with a colleague of mine and I got to thinking that it was just over a year ago when I started exploring Genius Hour. I was looking for a "choice unit" that my gifted coordinator wanted us to incorporate into our full-day gifted program. I didn't even know what a "choice unit" was, but I had some ideas in my head.
     I had used Envision units in my classroom in the past with a fair amount of student enthusiasm. Some of the students loved the creativity and application to the real world, some hated the work and the organization that went along with it, and some just completed it because it was assigned. All of the final projects were always stellar...(or mostly stellar) and the students would walk away proud of their work.
     I then experimented with Project Based Learning(PBL). I had been awarded an amazing technology grant and had to come up with 6 project based learning projects for grades K-5. I was able to do this using a Project Based Learning framework and I was able to incorporate the use of technology into all of these projects. We studied seasons in Kindergarten, habitats in 1st grade, nutrition in 2nd grade, free choice related to STEM in 3rd and 5th grade, and designing a park in 4th grade. The projects all turned out well, with just a "little bit" of stress along the way, and a total of 18 different in-class parent observations. Yes, it was insane...but I learned quite a bit, and was able to incorporate technology into classroom projects for the first time ever.  
    Then I happened upon Genius Hour. I had happened upon a post about Genius Hour on Pinterest that looked intriguing. I decided to finally take a close look at it in December of last year. I put together a plan and had NO IDEA WHAT TO EXPECT! We started it in January and at first they literally groaned about the thought of another project. I was a bit worried, but I persevered. After two weeks of introducing Genius Hour and working on it in class, the students had done a complete 180! They were begging to have Genius Hour, begging to have more work time, asking if they could work on it at home(yes!), getting together for Genius Hour playdates(not kidding about this), and had a new enthusiasm about learning. I couldn't believe the student engagement and I began to truly see the value about voice and choice. I am now on my 3rd round of Genius Hour since January and I have tweaked it each time. I have learned just as much as the students and continue to grow as a teacher. I have given students even more choice throughout the process, have continually refined my lessons on how to pick a "deep question," conferred with students one-on-one and guided them along the way, created ways for students to authentically reflect on their progress, given students chances to share their work locally and globally, provided opportunities for the students to collaborate and share their knowledge about creating products like websites, Prezi's, Keynotes, iMovies, etc, and continued to stress that this is a PROCESS. I'm expecting to see growth each time they complete a Genius Hour cycle, both from the students and from myself. The students have commented so many times..."I didn't know anything about any of this in September and now I can make my own website/keynote/Prezi/Nearpod/iMovie about my topic." We are finishing up presenting over the next couple of weeks and I'm already amazed about the ideas that they have already for the next round of Genius Hour. This is personalized learning at its finest and it is amazing to watch the students shine as they share their projects. It makes me so proud of them!