Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Post That Took 3 Weeks to Write...Trying Out a New Writing Structure


These first few weeks of school have been a whirlwind! I know that every teacher feels that way at the beginning of the year, but this year has been especially hectic for me! If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you may have heard about the unfortunate series of events within the first 3 weeks of school.

Day 1: Toilets flooded
Day 2: Power outage
Day 6: Lock in (A real one. Not a drill. Terrifying.)
Day 12-13: Emergency sub
à My husband’s grandfather passed away early Sunday Morning so we are making an emergency flight out to OKC for the services (9/19). (I started this post from the plane!) And as if having a last minute sub so early in the year wasn’t hectic enough, I am also in a wedding back in OR at the coast on Saturday (9/20). I will have to get wedding photo ready on the flight home. You best believe I will be rocking curlers on the plane.

******************************Okay, breathe******************************

Aside from all of that I am loving my new school and of course my kiddos! I have a few behavior issues (who doesn’t) but overall I have a fabulous class. I have been so impressed with them so far and can’t wait to see how far they go this year!

One of my personal goals this year is to improve my writing instruction. I have a really solid persuasive writing unit that I loooooove to teach, but the rest of my writing plans are unorganized random blah. A colleague of mine is involved in a writing training around the book Projecting Possibilities for Writers by Matt Glover & Mary Alice Berry. They focus on projecting units rather than planning units. The emphasis being on leaving room for adjustments in case things do not go exactly as planned. Which let’s be honest, is often in the classroom!

If you are interested you can get your copy by clicking the image below!

Now that I have read the book I am going to give it a whirl! You can find the planning template here! If you're like me and you like having a digital copy that you can type into, I typed one up on GoogleDrive. Feel free to use it! 

Matt Glover & Mary Alice Berry give a great outline for how planning should go. I was feeling overwhelmed with yet another new thing to try out but luckily there was a template and structure to follow. I am also lucky to have some amazing (and knowledgable) colleagues to help me navigate this new writing structure. Searching for Teacher Balance, I'm talking about you! ;)

Searching for Teacher Balance

Step 1:Decide on and name your unit of study

I don't know about you, but writing is always like pulling teeth in my classroom. Every year my students rush through writing without any motivation or desire. I hear a lot of excuses. But the one that bothers me every. single. time is "I don't know what to write".  How can you not know what to write!? The possibilities are endless! So I am using that as the launching point for my first unit! I want to focus on where writer's get ideas! So that is what my first unit will be called: Where Writer's Get Ideas. No more "I don't know what to write".


Seriously guys, the struggle is real.

Step 2:Collect mentor texts

Now the fun part! Collecting mentor texts! Another colleague of mine showed me this adorable book called Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon about a little boy who struggles with stories to write. This seemed like the perfect place to start! 

I scoured the internet for other books to help my students generate their own ideas during writing time. It wasn't easy. Trying to figure out the best way to word that search took way longer than it should have. So I posted what I was looking for on Facebook and BAM! Thank goodness for social media! 

The books I chose:
1. Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon
2. Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hills
3. The Best Story by Eileen Spinelli (not pictured)
4. Little Red Writing by Joan Holub
5. You Can Write a Story by Lisa Bullard

Step 3: Determine primary and secondary goals

I love setting goals! Is that weird!? I love it because it gives me a chance to step back and really think about my purpose. If I don't know my purpose I find that I lack the passion behind what I am teaching. And how can I expect my students to find what I'm teaching to be meaningful if I can't!?

Primary Goals:
1. Students will be able to generate a variety of different ideas independently during writing time.
2. Students will be able to tell a complete story with beginning, middle and end.
3. Students will increase their stamina for writing.

Secondary Goals:
1. Students will be able to convey a feeling in their writing.
2. With support, students will be able to add supporting details to their writing.
3. Students will draw pictures to support their writing.
3. Students will use appropriate capitals and punctuation.

Step 4: Project possible mini lesson topics

This step was really difficult for me probably because the possibilities are endless! It's a little bit intimidating! What helped me was to read through my mentor texts and look for things that could spark an interesting mini lesson. I also thought about the skills that my students are currently lacking.

1. Finding inspiration
2. Making connections (Text to Self)
3. Writing tools (dictionary, word wall)
4. Asking yourself questions
5. Adding details
6. Using your imagination
7. The writing process
8. Creative language
9. Stamina
10. Revision

Looking at other peoples units of study I noticed they tend to have a lot more mini lessons. That does make me a little bit nervous, but I am hoping the phrase "quality over quantity" applies here?

Step 5: Anticipate and prepare for issues

 I don't even know. The thing that keeps coming to mind is differing levels in ability. 

Step 5: Respond and Reflect

Stay tuned! I am starting this tomorrow! EEK!

Monday, September 1, 2014

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...September Currently!

Wow! I had to write that title 3 different times because I kept typing August. Wishful thinking I guess! 

I wish I could say that I've been a tad MIA lately because of something awesome like traveling outside of the country or spending countless hours on my TPT store. But the truth of the matter is, I went back to school last week! And boy oh boy is it tricky moving schools! Tomorrow is the first day with my new kiddos and I am so not ready. Not even close. 

I need to turn my teacher brain back on. Not that it was ever fully off but I'm not in teacher mode quite yet. I'm still in prep mode. 

In an attempt to get back into the swing of things I am linking up with the spunky Farley over at Oh' Boy 4th Grade for September Currently! Eeek! I love these currently's! 

Listening: Okay okay, I'll admit it. I have a problem. I am pretty sure I have been listening to Friends reruns every single time I have done my currently. It's one of my favorites! I'm not even sorry. 

Loving: I woke up this morning like a little kid on Christmas because it is officially September which means fall is here! I am love love loving this fall-esque weather! It's starting to cool down. Football is back. The leaves are changing to all of those beautiful colors. The PSL is back!

Which BTW did you know that you can get it decaf!? (I can't drink caffeine. I get physically ill). I don't know how I didn't know about this before last year. It has changed my world! 

Thinking: Exactly what everyone else is thinking. I am not ready to be back at school quite yet! Enough said. 

Wanting: Wouldn't it be great if our to-do lists could just finish themselves!? That is part of why I am not ready for school to start tomorrow, I still have so much to do! I don't even have all my curriculum/materials yet because of the new school. So stressful! 

Needing: I really need to take a shower. I got a massage this morning and part of it was a scalp massage which means that there are many kinds of massage lotions all up in my hair. And then I ran 3 miles… Luckily I don't sweat/smell! 

3 Trips: This one was so hard for me as I haven't done much traveling at all! You would think that would make it easier to choose 3 places I would like to visit but the choices are endless! I've decided that my top 3 would be Paris (I'm a girl, what can I say?), Germany (the culture/architecture is stunning) and New York (because we didn't get to go this summer)!

Well there's my September Currently! Back to lesson planning, prepping and organizing for tomorrow! Don't forget to go link up your September Currently! I love reading everyones! 

Good luck to everyone who is also starting next week!