Monday, September 30, 2013

Mock Newbery Book Club is Here!

It's finally here!  Tomorrow is our first official meeting of the Pleasant View Mock Newbery Book Club for sixth graders!  We'll be discussing why the Newbery Award is so special and what it takes for a book to win the award. Students will then have an opportunity to review several past winners of both the Newbery Award and the Newbery Honor Award.  Everyone  will then choose a past award winner or honor book to read for the first two weeks.  At our next meeting we'll compare notes and determine what it took for these books to win the award.  Then it's off to the 2013 books and our search for the next Newbery winner!

Check out these book trailers for a few past winners of the Newbery Award and Honor Award:

Holes by Louis Sachar
1999 Newbery Award

The Giver by Lois Lowery
1994 Newbery Award

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli 
1991 Newbery Award 

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm
2011 Newbery Honor

Friday, September 6, 2013

Writing and dreams, a powerful combination....still

Traditionally our sixth grade writer’s workshop begins the year with a formative writing assessment. Students are given a prompt, asked to brainstorm ideas, write a rough draft, and a final copy.  Since the purpose of this assessment is to see what the students already know, they aren’t allowed to conference with peers or teachers for help, ideas, anything.  I dreaded giving this assessment probably as much as the students did.  It seemed hypocritical to ask the students to write this way when it’s not at all how we teach writing.  Yet year after year, this is what we did.  Until this year.  Finally this year I was told it was not necessary to administer the assessment!

However, I still wanted to collect a writing sample from the students.  I needed to know them better as writers.  Then, while lesson planning late one night (that’s when I get my best brainstorming inspirations), it hit me.  Together the students and I would read the Time for Kids article about the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  I then wrote my own “dream” speech to use as a model and posted it on my blog.  Finally for the assessment, the students would write their own “dream” speech.

The lesson couldn’t have gone better.  Many of the students were immediately taken in by the article.  They had heard of Martin Luther King Jr. but for the most part had been unfamiliar with the extreme discrimination of the time.  They were aghast when they learned of the segregated schools, libraries, and even water fountains.  I then shared my blog with the class by displaying my “dream” speech on the Smart board and read it aloud.  One class of students actually clapped when I finished reading the post!  Later in the day when I was describing the lesson to another teacher and how I had read my post to the class to model, a student overhead and said he liked the post so much he wanted to run up and hug me (it’s only the 4th day of school)!

Now it’s Friday night. I’m home in my pjs and reading the students’ dream speeches. (Isn’t this a typical Friday night for teachers?) I have to admit I wasn’t prepared for what the students wrote.  I had been expecting dreams of wanting good grades, more recess, less homework and I did read several essays with these wishes.  But then there were the truly heartfelt dreams:

I have a dream that I will get more respect from others.
I have a dream that you won’t get criticized for what you say or do in class.
I wish we could read any book we want, and not just around a lexile range.
I have a dream that the subjects I struggle with will be easier.
I have a dream that I will get straight A’s for my mom.

Now it was my turn to want to run and hug someone.  I had told the students I would not force them to read their dream speech aloud.  I guess they believed me.  This is going to be a great year!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

My Dream...

Tomorrow in writer's workshop the students and I will be reading an article about the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech.  As I read the article through myself I got the idea  of having the students use it to inspire their own "I Have a Dream" speech.  Of course I knew then that I would need a model for them, so here is my "I Have a Dream".

I have a dream that this year my students will embrace learning.  They will come to school looking forward to learning.  They will not worry if an assignment is being graded or how much it’s worth. They will be motivated to learn for the sake of knowledge and self-fulfillment.  They will not simply complete an assignment to be “done”.  They will challenge themselves to not only finish their work, but also to comprehend it.  They will look for ways to extend their learning into the real world.

I have a dream that this year my students will all become not simply better readers, but life-long readers.  They will read not because they have to, but because they want to.  They will learn how to choose books that appeal to them, books they will stick with and not abandon.  They will be able to understand what they read, and know which strategies to use if meaning does break down.

I have a dream for myself too this year.  I dream that this year I will read more everyday.  I will read books of my own choosing, books that I read because I WANT to read them.  I will write about the books I read because I know that I do some of my best thinking on paper.  I’ll write what I think of the books, revise my writing until it sounds like me, and then post it to my blog so that I can share my thoughts with others.

I have a dream that this will be the best school year ever!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Open for Learning!

      Well, it’s Sunday and after 5 hours of work today my classroom is DONE (almost)!  This year our school will be implementing the middle school model for fifth and sixth grade, which means I'll be teaching reading and writing workshop to three sixth grade sections each day.  So I needed to make some changes this year. I wonder if anyone is truly able to pull his or her room together in the time allotted during pre session? Or should we say “pre season," because with all the physical labor involved in unpacking a classroom and getting everything ready for the students, I honestly feel as if I’ve been in training camp.  (I’ve got the broken nails and sore muscles to prove it!) Not to mention the three half days of “strategy” sessions we attended! So I’ve got the room presentable, I’ve got a game plan down, one more day to tie up loose ends (and maybe get some reading in) and it’s GO time!

On my front table I display a book I'm currently reading (and keep a list of students that request it as soon as I finish!).

New this year, I'll be displaying all the books I read.
This is my summer reading list.  Nineteen and counting!  It was quite the conversation starter during open house.
Got this idea from Twitter...

Also new this year, the "Newbery Nook".  This is where all Newbery award winning books (including honor books) will be kept and all 2013 new releases.  I'm hoping to start a Mock Newbery club this year.  We'll start by reading past winners and then move on to books published in 2013.

Common Core front and center!  It's hard to see in the picture, but on the white strips are Common Core standards written as "I can..." statements.  I will be changing these to align with the current workshop lesson.  The strips are laminated and have magentas on the back so they're super easy to change out.

"This class is something to "Tweet" about!  Great idea I found on Pinterest!  We also have out Twitter handle displayed so hopefully people will follow us.  :)   @PV6Reads


 Finally the class library, my favorite part of the room!  These photos are of the fiction section which has two separate seating areas for students. The books are in baskets, arranged by genre.  The nonfiction section is currently being categorized and labeled.