Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Final Reflections on Several Things

Post-Reading Workshop
  • Having the carts with pre-selected books had its pros and cons. Kids didn't have any excuses to forget their book = pro. Certain books were in high demand and we had no more = bad. Kids rarely switched books = good.
  • Our original intent of the workshop was to mainly read non-fiction, but as we began selecting books we got nervous that we didn't have enough titles so we threw in some fiction. I would say in the end, the fiction outnumbered the non-fiction. Additionally the majority of kids were more attracted to the fiction we provided. I believe this is mainly due to the fact that the scant non-fiction we offered were older and had unappealing titles. In hindsight, I wonder if we should have limited the choices to biographies and autobiographies...
  • Conferring never improved. There were several things Julie did that I wished I had tried. Things that I felt would be no-nos, she had great success with. For instance, I was taught that when you confer, it should happen where the student is working, not where the teacher works. So I faithfully made my way around the classroom and squatted or knelt for each conference. Only later did I find out that Julie was inviting kids to her desk. Her kids felt safe and were eager to share, unlike the majority of mine who appeared apprehensive and timid.
  • Some of the same issues that have plagued my reading workshops in the past persisted in this one as well. The "smart" kids don't feel like they improve or learn anything new and my lowest kids aren't successful for an array of reasons (sleeping, switching books a lot, etc.)


Next year I will:

  • set up a strict timeline and have daily checkpoints.
  • ask kids ahead of time to rate their artistic ability and then evenly distribute them amongst the groups.
  • go back to including the pre-writing page (before the draw a rough draft).
  • have the kids write more during the process.
  • connect the process to the design cycle more.

Post-Saving the Planets PP Slides

  • Overall I think this project went GREAT! I loved it and we improved on what we did last year. I was also thrilled to notice all the other great skills we were covering unintentionally, like main idea and supporting details, research, paraphrasing and tech skills like using the notes section of PP and the shadow function on text to make it stand out more against the background.
  • Saving as jpgs and then having a student compile all the slides into one presentation went beautifully. Kids loved seeing their slides on the scroll.
  • Items to add to rubric and instruction: uncluttered slide (text, graphics, rule of 8, spacing, size and placement); choice of graphic makes sense; helpful fact (not just stating the obvious, correct grammar, spelling and punctuation); one sentence only (review compound and complex sentences); one graphic only; research is paraphrased in their own words.
  • Things I'd like to incorporate more for next year: command (sentences), The Story of Stuff, clip from King Corn and other eco-movies, persuasive techniques (esp. logos, ethos, pathos in TAG), Joni Mitchell song
  • Four days was the perfect amount of time to complete.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Workshop Highlights- Jeff Anderson & Everday Editing: The Power of Process

I was very excited to hear Jeff Anderson speak in person. I haven't read all of Mechanically Inclined cover-to-cover, but I definitely liked what I skimmed. So when I heard he was giving a Saturday morning workshop, I signed up right away.

Don't flood kids with wrongness.
  • Anderson spoke against the use of DOLs or having students correct pieces of writing with mistakes. His excellent line of reasoning included, you wouldn't show math students problems solved incorrectly and then have them correct it. We should show students good models of writing because that is what they will remember.

Invitational Learning

  • Anderson suggests showing students a good piece of text (he used the first sentence of Flush by Carl Hiaasen) and then asking them, "What do you notice?". After some response, ask them, "What else?" because there is so much to talk about. This method allows for students to notice more than just conventions, but also such great things as word choice, author's purpose and so much more.
  • When students do notice punctuation, Anderson suggests asking, "What's that ____ doing?". This question forces students to pay attention to function. He furthers this inquiry by asking, "What's that ____ doing when I read it aloud or when I read it with my eyes?".

I'm really excited to try this today in my classroom. It reminds me so much of Don Killgallon's Sentence Composing, which I have tried on and off during the last couple of years. I'll post about how it goes!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Learning from Conferences with Students

For the summer writing workshop I will attend, I need to identify some areas of inquiry. An on-going one for me is conferring with students during workshop. I typically feel pretty confident during writing workshop (although I still have a lot of room for growth), but during reading workshop, I feel like my conferences are failures.

During our most recent workshop, I've been trying to pinpoint reasons why they're not going well. I've noticed that the kids aren't all that willing to share with me and I blame myself. I feel like if I had been more consistent about conferring at the beginning of the school year, that by this time the conferences would be flowing more easily.

I've been thinking a lot today about perfecting my conference form where I record notes from each student's conference. Right now I use a blank page and post-it notes. It has it's ups and downs. The post-its allow me to be mobile, but I wish I had some kind of checklist to take with me.

I did have an aha moment when talking to Varun today. When I asked him how his Reading Log goals were going, he mentioned that he had exceeded his goal by a huge amount. I recommended that for the last six weeks he try a genre goal, which he quickly responded that he already had in the fall. Then I just felt really stupid, but it made me realize that I can't just go into the conferences without their record or goal sheet. It would be ideal if their goals and record sheet I use for conferences were combined into one form.