Sunday, March 25, 2012

Two Things

Thing One
I may have mentioned this before, but pencil cap erasers have been a lifesaver in my room.  I thought I had posted about this before, but I couldn't find it.  If I did, forgive the repeat.  As teachers, we have to pick and choose our battles.  I have given up on pencils and erasers.  I just keep a supply for my friends.  Here is my container for pencil cap erasers.
I got it in a dollar store.  Notice the sign?
We have a big talk about needs vs. wants!  I buy a box of 500 eraser caps at the start of each year with my school supply order.  They are actually fairly inexpensive.  It will generally last nine out of the ten months we are in school.  The last month they are on their own!  I just found it so much easier to have these available than having my friends wasting time searching for an eraser or borrowing from a neighbor.  Actually, it is more like the OCD in me was getting crazy over the messy papers I was getting.  When I would ask why they didn't just erase, the answer was always, "I didn't have an eraser."  No excuses now!

Thing Two
Are your friends caught up in the patterned duct tape frenzy? 

The girls in my room have made duct tape bows, necklaces, bracelets, and any other thing they can attach to themselves.  The boys have made wallets and toys that I have had to confiscate more than once!  I have been the recipient of many duct tape flower pens this year.  Here are the four most recent:

They are having a lot of fun with this stuff.  It got me thinking to what I could use it for.  It would be great for book binding when your friends make books.  It would also be neat to cover a clipboard with.  Have you used this stuff for anything?  Any ideas?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Calling Guided Reading Groups

How do you organize for guided reading?  Now, I know that's a loaded questions because there is so much to plan for.  I am asking just about how you call your groups and how students know what groups they are in.  I am going to share my method, but I am on the lookout for something that might work better.
Paint chips come into play again.  I group my kids by color. They are actually grouped by reading levels at the moment, but they don't know that!  Since the groups are flexible and always changing, I need a way for my friends to know what group they are in and who is meeting that day.

On my dry erase board I have an A and a B.  During guided reading, my class works in centers except for the two groups I will be meeting with that day.  The A group is the group that comes immediately to the meeting table.   My guided reading time is very limited.  I am REQUIRED to meet with two groups in thirty minutes.  To maximize the time we meet, my B group has to be ready to go.  The B group doesn't work on centers. Instead, they have independent reading time until I finish with group A. If I had to wait for them to put center materials away, we would never meet. 

Anyway, here is what my board looks like.
I taped a piece of white card stock to the paint chip and laminated it.  Then, I stuck some magnetic tape on the back.  I just use a dry erase marker to write my friends' names on the white part.  Next to the letter A, I put the color group I will be meeting with first, with the B group being the second group I will meet with. 

I tend to have five groups.  I made a sixth orange card for random groups I pull for specific skills.  My other groups are flexible groups, but tend to stay together longer because we are reading novels or doing lap books, all of which take a while.  The orange card allows me to pull as I need to from the other groups to touch base with students I notice have a common need.  I'll meet with them once or twice to hit the skill or strategy in question.

In my guided reading area, I extend the colors to my folder bins and teaching drawers.  My friends have a guided reading folder to hold the materials we are currently working with.  I just printed a color card that I can write their names on.
Next to that, I have my drawers where I keep the teacher materials I need for each group.  It's an easy way to organize for the week.  I can just throw in whatever I might need and we are good to go.

So, that's kind of how I let my friends know who is meeting today and keep myself organized.  Do you have an easier, more effective way to do it?  If so, please share!  This has been working for me, but I'm always open to new ideas.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Odds & Ends

The odds and ends of my day, otherwise known as an unfocused blog post.

1. Resignation: See the papers in this bag?  All need grading.  This is what I am doing tonight.
Yup, I have fallen behind in grading. . . again.  If you have read my blog for any length of time, you know that this is my Achilles heel.  It is the one responsibility of teaching that I just dread doing.  However, tonight IT'S ON!  Which translates to I've put it off as long as I dare and have to get most of it done tonight.

2.  Peeved:  Every Day Math Tests!  Yes, they irritate me.  The tests tend to have "creative" questions.  Things that ask the kids to create a problem that involves x, y, and z but equals less than this but more than that.  Great for higher level thinking, but a nightmare to grade.  I literally have to solve 25 different multi-step problems to grade these tests.  Each friend creates their own.  What's worse it that many of the tests have more than one of these types of problems.  They take forever to grade!  And, yes, there is a nice stack of them in that bag. :-(

3.  LOVING!  My new Thirty-One school bag.  That one stuffed with papers up there?  I love it! I just got it last week.  It is the perfect size for school papers. The fabric is a laminated nylon, so it cleans easily.  It has four room pockets on one side, two on the other, and mesh pockets on either end.  The handles are also long enough to sling it over your shoulder comfortably.  This one is the "organizing utility tote." On their site, it is $25. I love mine!  I have no connection to Thirty-One, but I will tell you to go buy one of these for yourself.  You will love it!  I'm thinking of getting another in a more summer-y pattern.

4.  Munching:  Since I have all that paper grading to do, I've decided on the dinner of champions.  Peanut butter toast!

5.  Sad:  One of my little friends was badly hurt in an accident this week.  Tomorrow we are going to make get well cards in class to send to the hospital.  Isn't it funny how attached you can get to your students?  I really want to cheer my little friend up.   I was thinking of maybe taking some silly pictures of the class with get well signs to also include with the kids' cards.  Anyone have any other ideas on how to cheer up my injured friend?

6.  Itching:  Just itching to check out all the blogs that linked up over at the upper elementary linky party!  I haven't had a chance to visit most of them yet.  It is supposed to be a rainy weekend, so it will be perfect for curling up with my computer and blog colleagues!  I see that some of you have stopped by here.  Thanks so much for visiting!

7.  Wow, Really?!  Just found out that we have an assembly next week.  It is a motivational assembly.  For some reason, this just makes me laugh.  I'm thinking when I was in 5th grade, nobody worried about motivating me to do my work.  It was just expected.  Now, we have motivational assemblies for ten and eleven year olds!  I have nothing against it.  Hey, anything that works!  I just think, my how times have changed! :-)

8.  Reality:  It was fun taking a break to blog with you, but I have to stop and get back to grading now.  See you over the weekend!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Upper El. Ed. Blogs Galore!

Hey!  Did you hear the news?   Lorraine over at Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies is having an upper elementary linky party!  She's made the call for all 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade teachers to link up by posting a link to their blog.  I am loving it! 

It always seems challenging to find other upper elementary blogs.  Problem solved!  I can tell you I seem to be a little late to the party.  I was the 54th link.  That means I have 53 other upper el. ed. blogs to check out!  Can you figure out what I'll be losing hours of my weekend to? :-)

So, if  you have been looking for some upper el. ed. blogs, head over to Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies and check it out!  Maybe even follow a few.  We bloggers love it when you follow and comment!

By the way, I got my observation back.  It went very well!
Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Book Talk with a Little Bit of Pi on the Side

Before I get to book talks, let me say how much I appreciate all your comments regarding teacher observations..  It was really eye-opening to see the wide variety of practices in place.  I also wasn't aware that tenure had been completely abolished in some states.  It makes for interesting thought to see that we all have the same job with the same important goal of educating our youth, however what we do is open to such a variety of rigor in its evaluation.  Gave me a lot of food for thought.

Moving on. . .

My friends conducted book talks this week.  Overall, they did a really good job.  They were to sell their book as if they were giving a cheesy infomercial.  Kind of silly, but lots of fun.  They had to summarize their book and "sell" it to their classmates without giving away the ending.

As part of the project, they also had to create a t-shirt that reflects the book.  One of the main things I noticed at this book talk was how much better their public speaking skills were from the book talks we did last month.  I don't know if it was the cheesy infomercial effect, but most had memorized their talks rather than reading them from note cards.  They also had a lot more eye contact and variety in volume and inflection when they spoke.

I thought I would share some of what they did.  Since I can't show faces, I took two pictures.  One for our school blog and then another without their head for this blog.  Yikes!  That sounds so mean, to have cut their heads off in the pictures.  I just didn't want to take the time to blurr out the faces!  Let's just say this will allow you to focus without being charmed by a bunch of cute smiles! :-)

I categorized some of the pictures. 

  • Here are few of my nonfiction readers.
This friend read Favorite Greek Myths by Mary Pope Osborne
I love that he created a glossary of the gods on the back of his shirt. 

This friend read a biography on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  She found it really interesting because she said kids always learn the same thing about Dr. King every year and through reading this book, she was able to learn new information.  Out of the mouths of babes! 

This book was a huge hit.  If you can think of any mythical monster, it is in this book.  It really was varied.  We read about creatures like Cerberus to the Jersey Devil.  His t-shirt was made of some of his favorite creatures.  It was good, but I would rather he drew them or made them in some way.
  • The next crop of pictures are from a group I call my Girly Girls.  If there is a book about a boy, shopping, and nail polish this group is all over it!  I often have to remind them to stretch themselves as readers.  However, notice the book choices when left on their own.
I think you get the picture! 
  • This next group would be some of my advanced readers.  They are a tough group.  They have very high reading levels, but finding books can be tough because the content is not always appropriate.  These books were chosen from at-home reading with parent approval.  In the classroom, I'm not sure I would have given a green light to all these books.  I find with advanced readers, they get caught up in being able to read advanced books, but don't really have the skills yet to deeply comprehend what they are reading.
Hands down my favorite shirt!  Look at the face of the boater.
If you are going to read Jaws by Peter Benchley, this is the perfect t-shirt!
Not a lot of information on it, but her book talk was great.
I should note that they all had more information about the book on the back of their t-shirts, but I figured we are already on picture overload without my posting two pictures of each.
Here's the funny thing about this particular book talk.  One of the rules was that you could not give away the ending of your book.  My friend who read the Hunger Games gave a great recap without telling the ending.  Of course, did I think about that when this friend got up to talk about the sequel, Catching Fire?  Oh my!  You should have hear the groans when in the course of talking about this book she totally told the ending to the first book.
  • This last group of pictures is just a mish-mosh of different books my fifth graders are enjoying.

UPDATE (6/2013)  I have to thank you all as this is one of my most popular posts.  Over a year later I still get emails asking me for the rubric I used with this project.  I'm sad to report that I have looked high and low and just can't find it.  I have looked on my computer and even went through my files hoping I had a hard copy on file.  Nope. :-(  But, any rubric you would use for an oral book report would work.  

  Okay, one more UPDATE (6/2014)  Believe it or not, I still get emails asking me for a rubric for this project.  I still don't have one for ya!  BUT, I found a great one that will work beautifully.  It's a Teachers Pay Teachers product by Runde's Room, a great blogger with an amazing blog!  She has created a book talk pack that includes an information sheet, student guideline sheet, information organizer, and a rubric for assessment.  You can click HERE to go directly to the product.  I purchased it a while back, and can tell you it will work well with this project.  It wouldn't include the t-shirt for scoring, but you could just add that in and I think that would be easy to do if you follow what she did on the rubric.  Anyway, hope this helps those of you still looking for a book talk rubric.

So, that is what my friends have been up to this week.  Well, that and today was PI DAY!!!  We had a lot of fun.  The four other fifth grade teachers I work with and I rotated among the five classes doing different pi related activities.  Part of my activity was a reading of the book Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi by Cindy Neuschwander.
It's actually part of a series of books that does a fantastic job in explaining some geometry concepts in a very entertaining way.

We finished the day with pie, of course!  In all, my parents sent in eleven pies for twenty five children.  Yeah, I have a serious pie belly right now! But, oh it was good!
How was your pi day?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Teacher Observations

Teacher Observations. . .

Last week I had my yearly classroom observation by my principal.  Normally, not a big deal. Prior to this year, I have had the same principal for the past 14 years.  After 14 years, you know what he/she wants to see.  You know what he/she likes and don't like.  If you are lucky, as I was, you have a trusting and comfortable professional relationship.  I can honestly say that, perhaps with the exception of my first year teaching, I have never been overly concerned or nervous about my yearly observation.

However, this year we have a new principal.  We are all still trying to feel him out, as he is us.  I think this must be how it feels to start dating again after a long term relationship! ;-D  Having said that, I have to admit to being a bit nervous about my observation this year.  Had I gotten too comfortable?  Did I rely too much on knowing what my previous principal wanted to see in the past?  What would this new principal be looking for?  It can be a bit disconcerting. 

I'm happy to say that I actually felt relieved when he came in.  I just wanted to get the whole thing over with.  Happily, once I started my lesson, it all just fell into place and I was actually able to forget that he was even there.  I think it all went well, but I haven't gotten my observation back yet.  So, I guess we will have to wait and see!

What got me started on this post was a posting I read by Lindsay on her blog My Life as a Fifth Grade Teacher.  She wrote a post called It's Time to be Formally Observed.  As I read it, I started comparing her observation with mine.  She was writing about scheduling her formal observation with her AP.  What?!!! What is this "scheduling" she speaks of?!!  Sooooo different from my observations.  In my district, untenured teachers have four observations a year.  Three are unannounced with just a post conference and one is scheduled (it might be two of the four scheduled, but I think it's just one) with a pre and post conference.  Two of the observations are done by building administration and the other two are done by district administration.  Tenured teachers have one formal, unannounced observation with a post conference.  That's the category I fall in.

There was something different about my observation this year.   My principal observbed me for 90 minutes!  That is a looooooooooong time to have someone watch your every move and monitor your every word!  In the past, we have always had 45 minute observations.  If you know me, you would know that I don't believe in putting on the dog and pony show.  It is what it is! But when I looked up and noticed that after an hour he was still there,  I have to say that towards the end I was sort of thinking, "Okay, what else can I do here?"  It just seemed to go on forever.  

He also did a couple of other things that haven't regularly happened in my past observations.  He walked around and examined everything in my room, from walls to desks, and very carefully examined each activity my friends were working on.   He also questioned the kids about the lesson. None of these things are bad, in fact it probably makes for a more thorough evaluation.  I just haven't seen it in a while, so I was a bit surprised.

Havng just been observed and then reading Lindsay's post, I got to thinking about how different observations can be from state to state, town to town.  So, just out of curiosity's sake, I have some questions for you.  Esentially, what are observations like in your neck of the woods?  I would love to hear from you.
  1. How many observations do you have a year?
  2. Who does your observations?
  3. How long are they?
  4. And, anything else you are willing to share about being observed!
In our district, we have to get our observation back within ten work days and at least one day prior to our scheduled post conference.  I'll let you know how it went when I get mine back.

*****Update:  I just posted this a few hours ago, but had to come back and update.  I have been reading and replying to some of the comments.  I have to say I an absolutely floored at just how varied  teacher observations are across the country.  It really is astounding that they can be so very different!  Some of  you seem to get slammed with lots of observations while others are in districts that don't seem to view them as the be all and end all.  Please, keep the comments coming.  They are really interesting to read.  I may not be able to comment on them all, but know I'm reading them all as are many others.  Thanks for your input and thoughts on this topic.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Using WORDLESS Picture Books

We talk a lot about using picture books in our teaching.  I am wondering though if you are using wordless picture books in your lessons.  If not, you are missing out on a great teaching resource.  I try to incorporate wordless picture book in my lessons for a variety of lessons.

Well, besides the fact that a picture is worth a thousand words, there are plenty of other great reasons to incorporate wordless picture books in your teaching:

-They lend themselves to any lesson you could think to teach.
-They level the playing field in the class.  Without text to contend with, you can still teach reading and writing skills/strategies to the whole class or mixed ability groups without needing to level.  This is great for your lower performing students and your ELL friends.  In fact, I find that my high ability students are often the ones that don't so as well with wordless book activities.  They often like to stick to the text and want it to be "right."  With wordless picture books, you have a lot of wiggle room which can make them uncomfortable.  My lower performing students are often able to take the lead in these types of activities.
-It sparks your friends imagination.  Without text, you will be amazed at what they read into what they see.
-You can use the same books across many grade levels depending on what you ask your friends to do with them.  They aren't just for little kids!
-A lot of the ways I use these books require my kids to be up and moving or working on the floor in small, cooperative groups. Anything different from seat work is always welcome! 
-These lessons also often require collaboration, conversation, and decision making as a class. 

I thought I would share with you some of the ways in which I have used wordless picture books in my classroom.  Now, for each of the skills/strategies I list below, I have given an example of how you can teach it.  However, there are a bazillion other ways you could teach these lessons.  These are just some examples.  You could expand the lesson or simplify it as you see fit or maybe you have your own idea on how to do it.  Do what works for you!

-Copy all the pages of your book.  Divide the pages into three parts; beginning, middle, and end.  Give it to three groups.  Each group sequences their pages.  Then, bring the three groups together to decide the sequence of the three sections.  Once they have decided, I tape the pages in order up around the room and we view the story from beginning to end.  As a groups, they can make any last minute changes at this point.  We then read the actual book and see if we sequenced the same way the author did.  This is where the real lesson comes in.  If there were no changes, you can discuss how they determined sequence.  It's important for them to verbally justify their reasoning.  If their sequence doesn't agree with the book, they have to defend their reasoning.  I find that there are times when the sequencing my friends do really does make more sense than what is done in the actual book.  It is in the discussions where I hear how my friends are applying sequencing skills.  This is great for your ELL friends as it puts them on an equal playing field to the rest of the class as there is no text to struggle with, and still teaches them the skill.  Many of the lessons that follow are great for your ELL friends for the same reason.  This is also great for the lower grades if you use a simple book.  They can organize simply for beginning, middle, and end.

Inferencing & Predictions
Without words, you must really analyze the story story through the illustrations.  When reading the book with your friends, have them make predictions before the next page. Without text to cite, they really must apply some good inference reasoning. When you do this as you read the book, they are always in anticipation of turning the page to see if they were correct.

Dialog & Mood
Select a page or two that has two characters.  What would those characters be saying in this situation?  How do I write that dialog?  Using just one page for this makes it a good quick hit for a mini-lesson.  You can then give your friends another page to write the dialog in independent practice.  This is a great way to have them practice crafting power sentences  as it forces them to incorporate mood, which they must determine from what is happening in the illustration.  You can also just use the illustrations to determine mood without having to write the sentences.  In this case, the dconversation you have with your friends is critical.  They need to explain how they determined mood.  What in the picture gave you that idea?  What are the characters doing?  What is the setting?  Did the illustrator use darker, moodier colors or brighter, happier colors?

I find this same technique an excellent way to teach internal monologue.  After reading the book with the class, I focus on a page that comes later in the story.  At this point, there is something going on in the story, some conflict, so my friends have something to work with.  We then focus on one character in the illustration.  I ask my friends what this character might be thinking.  What would his thought bubble say?  We go on to discuss how internal monologue gives us insight to the characters, their feelings, motivations, etc.  and how it can give us additonal information that we may not otherwise know.  My friends then work in pairs to come up with internal monologue for different characters in the book or for the same character in different parts of the book.  Without fail, I find after I do this lesson, my friends begin to incorporate internal monologue in their own writing.

Character Analysis
After reading the book, what do you know about the main character/protagonist?  This really focuses your friends on a characters actions.  Create a list of character traits with your friends.  The lesson comes, again, in having your friends justify their choices.  What makes them say the character is kind or frustrated or loving?  You get the idea!

Narrative Writing
Obviously, there is no text in a wordless picture book.  Have your friends write the story guided by the illustrations.  This is a good way to teach or review narrative writing.  You can write the story on chart paper as a shared writing activity.  This way you can be sure to guide them in incorporating the required narrative elements.  Or, you can always do this as a small group or independent writing assignment.  I like doing it in small groups at the end of the narrative writing unit.  I can see my friends applying what we have learned.  Also, it is really a lot of fun when we read the stories from the different groups.  While we all had the same illustrations to follow, the stories are always different.  The plots vary, some go for humor while other groups are more serious.  Some groups embellish beyond the pictures, while others pretty much stick to the pictures.

Identify Plot Structure, Story Climax
For this, I usually have my friends sequence the story first. Then, we discuss the story plot.  Once we know what is happening in the story, my friends identify the story page that shows the climax of the story.  We can then look at the pages before and after.  If you have taped your story along the wall as we do, you can then move the pictures to show the plot mountain. 

When you tape the pictures in a visual display on the wall, they can then use sentence strips to label the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.  It is a very concrete, visual way to teach these elements.

Main Idea & Supporting Detail
If you've done either the sequencing or plot structure lessons above where you ordered the pages on the wall, you should try this lesson.  Have your friends identify the page that essentially shows the maid idea.  Once you are all in agreement, have them take down any pictures that don't support that main idea.  You will be left with only pages that show events which support the main idea.  Again, a very visual and concrete way to teach this skill.  I would chart this with words.  Write the main idea and then, looking at the pages, come up with a sentence for each supporting detail.  I would also just suggest being particular about what book you use.  Some wordless picture books tend to be very fanciful and imaginative.  This works best with a book that follows a less imaginative, "real" story.

Those are just some ideas for lessons you can teach with wordless picture books. Depending on your learning goal and what you require of your friends, I find them to be excellent books to use across all grade levels. In particular, your older students will really get a kick out of using them because it is so different from their norm.

So, let's talk books.  Wordless picture books can be hard to find if you don't know what you are looking for.  In my public library, the wordless picture books are mixed in with all the other picture books.  You could spend forever looking for one without words.  With a simple Google search, I was able to find a few different lists.  Below are two links I think might be helpful in getting you started.   I selected these list because they both have books I have used with great success.  I'll tell you a little more about two of my favorites that are on the lists.

  • The Louisville Free Public Library also has an online list.  A few of the books on their list are the same as on the Carnegie list, but there are some different ones.  One I like and have used is You Can't Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Weitzman.  Being just a quick train ride away from New York City, my friends can always make connections to this book as many have been to large museums in the city.  What I really like about this book is that there are multiple illustrations on each page.  There is usually a larger, main illustration with smaller ones around it.  It is like having supporting details on the page for the main picture and is very helpful for your students that need more information or visual clues.

Between these lists, you should have a good starting point.  There are a lot of great wordless books out there, and these are just a small sample.  There are so many others I could go on about.  Talk to your school media specialist, and see what they recommend.  It would be nice if they had a special section just for these types of books.  However, don't be discouraged if you can't get your hands on any wordless picture books or don't have the time to go looking. It is easily solved. Grab your favorite picture book and some Post-It notes. Simply cut the Post-Its to cover up the text. Voila! You can turn any picture book into a wordless picture book.

So, is any of this helpful or have I just rambled on?  :-)  How are you using wordless picture books?  Do you have a favorite to share?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Best Excuse For Not Blogging

Posting is a little light this week because
 I have to give my attention to a very serious matter.

It's my birthday!

You know you're a teacher when there are three new picture books on your birthday wish list!
I also woke up to the perfect cup of coffee this morning.
I think it's going to be a good birthday!

I hope you also have a great day!!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Great Blog-land Find!

I had to pop back in today for a quick post.  I wasn't planning to post today, but when I saw this I knew I had to come back and tell you all.  Mrs. Smith of the blog Classroom Magic did her own post on the book Testing Miss Malarkey.  You need to go visit her blog.

She was able to find an online link to the book!!!

I'm not going to post it here since it was her find, so you have to go to her blog to get the link.  My first link above will take you to her blog post.  The second will take you to my post about the book.

Mrs. Smith also came up with this "sweet" poster for test prep.  I love it!!! 
She has a whole test prep incentive chart to go with it.  It is a really neat idea.  When you visit her blog, you can read about it in depth.  This is what I love about teacher blogs.  There are so many great ideas out there!  I always say the best teaching happens when teachers collaborate and share ideas.

Again, here is the link for Mrs. Smith's blog. . . Classroom Magic.  Go show some love!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Peer Editing

I promise this mess means something!

How do you select peer editors for your friends?  I always have some that are ready for a peer editor and some that are still writing.  It got to be confusing to see who was ready for peer editing and who wasn't.  Then, I came up with this idea.

When we are ready for editing, my friends get a checklist to use for self-editing.  It's pretty thorough and my friends are able to catch and fix a lot.  However, I always like them to have a peer editor.  A fresh set of eyes will always find something new, and it gives my friends an opportunity to see how their peers are writing.

When I see that my friends are beginning to be ready for a peer editor, I make the chart above.  I write "I need a peer editor!" at the top and number one to about 15.  When a friend is ready for a peer editor, they go up and write their name down.  If they get to the chart and see a name on it, they write their name next to it and then cross out both names with a single line.  They then, meet with their peer editor and exchange papers.

Here's why this works for me:
-It's a random pairing.  In the past, I would try to make sure they had a different peer editor each time. This chart sort of takes care of that.  They rarely get the same person twice.
-When they just put a single line through both names, I am able to see at a glance who is working together.  Of course, for the blog I have scribbled out the names. 
-They know the routine.  My friends always have  what we call a "Go To" book and activity in their desk.  If they put their name on the chart, but a peer isn't yet available they go to their "Go To" book and read or work on their "Go To" activity while they are waiting.  There is always something to do!

I have also simplified my peer editing process tremendously.  In the past, I would copy different peer editing checklists for my friend to use.  It got to be far too complex and time consuming.  Now, we don't use a chart at all.  They simply take a blank piece of paper.  The rule is two compliments and two critiques. 

We work it this way.  They meet with their peer editor and exchange papers.  They then find a spot away from the author to read the paper.  They can't ask the author any questions while they peer edit.  I point out that they are not able to ask the author of the books they read any questions as they read. The piece has to be able to stand on its own.  This is where the compliments and critiques come in.

They have to give two SPECIFIC compliments about the paper.  They also have to give two SPECIFIC critiques.   They write out these compliments and critiques on the blank paper.  Now, I will say this works best when you do a mini-lesson or two modeling how it is done well.  When they first start peer editing, they are very general.  The compliments and critiques are not really helpful to the author.  You really need to model how to make specific comments that will guide the author in some way.

Once they are done, they meet up with the other author and they conference together to discuss what they each wrote.  Then, it is up to the author to decide if he/she want to make any changes based on what their peer editor said.  I tell them that they are the owner of their writing.  They may choose to make changes or it's possible they don't agree with what the peer editor noted.  In that case, they simply say thank you for reading my paper and don't make the changes.  I feel it is important for them to have ownership of their paper.

The best part of this is that it all happens without me!  From the time they write their name on the chart to the time they finish meeting with their peer editor, I am out of the equation.  This allows me to focus on the kids who are still in the earlier stages of the writing process and need conferencing with me.  It really works well for us all.  My friends are headed to middle school the next year, so this also helps build the independence they will need.

How do you conduct peer editing with your friends?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

My Many Colored Days

Our school had a door decorating contest in honor of Dr. Seuss, and I thought I would show you what my friends came up with.  I had already planned a poetry lesson around his book My Many Colored Days.

This is one of my favorite Seuss books.  While it is great for all ages, it lends itself nicely to the upper elementary crowd.  If you are not familiar with this Seuss book, I have linked to a YouTube reading of it at the end of this post.  It is essentially about how different colors correlate to different feelings.  It shows how some days are certain colors/emotions, but we can feel several different colors/emotions in a given day.

We watched the YouTube reading, and then I created a chart with all the colors mentioned in the book.  I used a three column chart.  The first column had the colors, the second the corresponding emotion.  The kids made the same chart in their writing notebook and had the option of assigning a color any emotion they felt was more appropriate.  Then, in the last column, we listed a time we felt that way or something that makes us feel that way.  My friends then used the chart to help them write an emotion color poem.  We haven't yet done our poetry unit, so this was sort of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants thing but they were awesome.  I was very please with the final products.

I had traced the little person figure in the book and made lots of copies.  My friends colored one to match their poem and then two for our door decoration.  All in all, I think it came out nicely.  Take a look!

Here are a couple of pictures of our door.  Our windows had to be open, and let me tell you it isn't easy to cut out a window neatly!

The rest of the display ran alongside the door.   We don't have bulletin boards outside our room because of the lockers.  I have become the queen of vertical displays! 
Just ignore my pocketbook!  The chairs are out because we had parent conferences this week.  The blocked out paper next to my door is the list of conference appointments.

Here is the sign I made up close.  I am really happy with how it came out.  I'm totally laminating this to use again.

On the lockers, I mad another smaller sign by copying the title page from the book.  I then hung the poems on the lockers.  Here are a few.

I was very proud of my friends.  They had a fun time doing it, and I was pleased because I didn't want to just do a Dr. Seuss activity for the sake of doing one.  I wanted it to have some meaning.  This turned out to be a perfect fit for my friends.  Better than the poems were the conversations I heard as they were working.  There were some really deep (for ten and eleven year olds anyway!) conversations about the emotions they feel and how they handle them. 

Here is the reading of My Many Colored Days.  Enjoy!

I wish I could show you the doors of my collegues.  Mine is very tame in comparison.  Many of them went all out.  They are amazing!   So, what have you done in honor of Dr. Seuss this week?