Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tuesday Slice of Life: CLAPS

Today was the first day back in a school for me.  I was so excited to visit this 5th grade classroom. I had been talking to the teacher via emails since school started a few weeks ago, but had not had the chance to actually meet these amazing kiddos!
They were getting ready to do Writer's Workshop when I entered the room. They were all writing fiction pieces. They had a sheet they were using as a prop for their draft. Some had finished the first piece and were just going over what they had written. Others were still in the drafting spot.  The scaffolding they used was CLAPS. This stands for Character, Location, Action, Problem, Solution.
I was able to conference with two wonderful writers, Betsy and Madyson.  Betsy's piece was finished...or so she thought. It was about 1/2 sheet long.  I told her I would read it and see if I had any questions about it. She was happy to allow me to do that. 

When I finished reading her piece, I talked to her about how I had a few questions. We talked about how she probably knew the answers to my questions and didn't think about that when writing. I then reminded her about looking at the piece from the point of view of the reader. Even though she knew all the answers, her reader would have no idea. We then picked out three places that she could give her reader a picture of what was happening by creating a small moment in time. She went off to write three small moments to be added to her story.

Next was Madyson. She was writing a fiction piece about two girls, Isabel and Victoria who were actually twins connected to each other, but totally opposite in opinions. How would they deal with that problem? She was having a hard time coming up with solutions. We brainstormed some possibilities she felt comfortable using and went off to write. Not the easiest story to compose!

After the children had gone off to lunch, their teacher and I had time to confer about her young writers. It was a great discussion with us just brainstorming where she was going next and how she would encourage these talented children.

I am so fortunate to have this school and classroom open their doors to me and share their terrific kids!  I'm scheduled to visit again in a couple weeks. This is going to be a fun bunch to watch grow!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Slice of Life Tuesday: Approximations

As I was thinking about my slice of life today, I thought of how many children of all ages are working in school as hard as they can, but still not achieving perfection. As a teacher, I struggled with children who were doing their best work, but it didn't seem to be enough. Then I realized they were approximating.

As I watch my two-year-old granddaughter work through things in her life, I have a better picture of approximation now. Kaelyn is an adventurous child and not afraid to try anything. This can be scary, but also encouraging. When you ask her to count she does it: "1,9,7,4..." She knows that counting means numbers. She knows that counting means giving a list of numbers. She does not know the actual order...yet. It is the same when she eats! She loves to do it herself. However, the disaster around the table shows she is still approximating that, too.
She loves mac n cheese
She enjoys sitting with a book and going through the pages. Sometimes she even "read" as she looks at the pictures. This again is approximation.
As children in classrooms are beginning to write or beginning to try a new genre, they start with approximating. They may be able to "talk" what they want to write, but it just doesn't look the same on paper. The talk-phase of writing is the first step. The rest will come if we are patient and continue the talking. Giving children of any age the space and encouragement to continue to practice these skills will help them reach their goal.  They will improve!  It is difficult as a teacher who sees the same lack of progress day after day after day, to sit back and realize it is still approximating. It is nice if a coach is available to look at the development with different eyes. Seeing the progress over a period of time, gives it a changed view.
My advice to all you classroom teachers out there who are doing such wonderful things with kids is: Take baby steps and remember they ARE working and they ARE improving...it is approximations!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Saturday Celebration: First Day of Story Time

Story Time is something our local library has for the very young "readers".  When my grandson, Graham, was two years old we registered him for Story Time.  We were amazed at how he grew from a toddler to a youngster who enjoyed listening to books and making crafts.  We wanted to do the same for his sister, Kaelyn, so we enrolled both of them in Story Time this year.  Since Kaelyn just turned two in August, she was able to go along with her brother!
They each got a rug square to sit on as they listened to the stories. Kaelyn had a great time greeting many of her new friends.  She would walk up to them and wave and say, "Hi!  Hi! Hi!"  I think her new friends were a little overwhelmed with her friendliness.

For the craft time, they traced their hands. Well, they had a lot of help with that. Then pasted the word hello in many languages all over the hand. Last of all, they pasted a stick on the back. Now they had a portable hand for saying hello.  I think Kaelyn will get a lot of use out of this craft!
Before they left the library grounds, they had to visit the big fountain in the courtyard. We walked around it and admired all the lovely flowers, the sounds of birds and wonderful fall day!  Watching children begin their literary lives is a great celebration!  So thankful I can be part of watching them become readers!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Slice of Life Tuesday: Building Community Through Read Alouds

 One of the best ways to develop a community of learners in the classroom is a good read aloud.  Last year I picked up a picture book written by my friend, Lola Schaefer. The book caught my attention with the cover, but also because I now have a young grandson who loves numbers. The book: Lifetime, The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives, seemed like the perfect book for him.  However, when I got it home and read through it, I realized it had LOTS more to offer!
On first glance, I noticed the large pictures that covered whole pages. I noticed short pieces of writing on each page. I noticed things that would attract a young reader. I was sure my grandson would LOVE this book!  Numbers, animals, and lots of big pictures!
Then I looked at it with the eyes of a writing teacher, a teacher for older students who would be writing nonfiction books. This book is perfect for a study in science. What a model for those students.  Then I went to the very end of the book.  There I found several pages the older readers would enjoy. The section on The Animals told the exact scientific name for animals and gave information about them. The section on What Is An Average? gives those students information about how as a writer, Lola processed what she needed to write this book.  Last of all, the section: I Love Math shows how reading, writing and math all go together. She gives the readers the insight on how she had to find facts by solving problems. Then she gives a few problems for the reader to solve.
Once again, Lola amazes me with her talent. She has a love for kids, nature and writing! If you want to find out more about her, check out her website: www.lolaschaefer.com  Thanks, Lola, for another wonderful book!