Archive for October, 2010

On Old Cape Cod

We took our last vacation of the year a few weeks ago, and it was a rainy one (not to mention painful). I threw out my back while chucking my suitcase loaded with books to read on vacation (including That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo) into the trunk and had to visit a doctor while there. We visited friends on Cape Cod and being with them made the trip worthwhile. Enjoyed lots of clam chowder and had a lobster roll. Yum! The beaches were deserted and lovely at this time of year. Just downloaded a new app for my phone and took some fun photos with it. It’s called “Retro Camera” and gives an old-timey look to photographs. I snapped a few pictures on the one afternoon when the sun peeked out. Weeks like this are why I write Peace Partners!

Cape Cod boardwalk late in the afternoon

"End of Summer"- a vacated lifeguard stand

Fall marsh grasses

This boat made me "smile!"

Battling the wind on the boardwalk

Looking out to Sandy Neck

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Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)
When my daughter, Jessica, was in 2nd grade, she said, “Mom, I have found the most amazing poem about the wind! I love the way the words sound.” It was Christina Rossetti’s poem, “Who Has Seen the Wind?” It was Jessica’s first independent discovery of poetry. Interestingly, it was about nature, and she is now a field biologist! Poetry speaks to our innermost being. This is why I recommend having a poetry station in your classroom.
“Who Has Seen the Wind?
by Christina Rossetti
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

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I know many of you have been waiting for this moment and it’s finally here! You can now pre-order Math Work Stations on the Stenhouse website. The book will ship in late December/early January, but if you order now you get free shipping and it will come to you hot off the press!

To get free shipping, click here and during checkout enter the code MATHWS.

How exciting is this?

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Grand opening

I’ve found that when opening literacy stations, slow and steady wins the race! I recommend introducing just one station at a time, including about 3 new stations a week (depending on your grade level). Recently, a teacher I met told me that she holds a “Grand Opening” for each new station as she introduces it. She places a balloon by that station to show that it’s the new one to be introduced that day. I love this idea! Making a ceremony about opening each new station gives it special attention and gives students something to look forward to as the year progresses.

If you’d like to inform parents about how literacy stations replace traditional seatwork, you might send home a flyer announcing your “grand openings.” The flyer could include a photo of the stations and what children will do there. I’ve included a sample to get you started. (Substitute your own stations and photos). Older students could design their own informational flyers to tell parents about the independent work they are doing at school. Celebrate with a grand opening!

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Meet the author(s)

It’s always fun to connect with old friends. Recently I had dinner with my friends, Carol Lutz and Cara Jean Rayl, from Kokomo, IN. They drove over to Lafayette to join me for dinner. We had such fun laughing, talking, and thinking about what’s new in education. Cara Jean brought a book for me to sign for her grandchild’s teacher. I shared my new work on math stations with them, and we chatted about the book Carol wrote about teaching writing for Really Good Stuff.

Hannah, Carol’s granddaughter who is a first grader, came by to meet us, too. Hannah looked at my Literacy Work Stations book and told me that her teacher has this in her classroom. She said she’s seen it! So we took a picture to send to her teacher from our “Meet the Author” night. I told Hannah to email me, and we could be penpals. Her eyes lit up when I told her my first story was published in our school newspaper when I was seven years old. “That’s my age!” she beamed. I love meeting young authors!

Cara Jean and I look at the Math Work Stations manuscript on my laptop

Debbie, Hannah, and Carol- authors all!

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“PlayStation” Station

No, that’s not a misprint! It’s a station. Recently, I saw a great new technology station in 5th grade. It’s the “PlayStation” Station! This school has quite a few of these. They were in a closet until one teacher thought, “Hey, these would make an awesome station.” And she was right! Kids are right at home using the controller as they read and play games here.

PlayStation for reading

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In this classroom (filled with big kids and big desks), half the students work with pairs in buddy reading. They read fiction books and talk about characters and character traits. They work together using a graphic organizer to think about characters and their traits (which the teacher modeled in whole group prior to students using this independently).

The other half of the class goes to literacy stations with partners, including poetry, vocabulary, writing, computer, and classroom library.

Half the class does buddy reading using different books.

They use a graphic organizer to discuss and record character traits.

The other half of the class goes to stations with partners. This management board directs them to their station for the day. (Note that this teacher sees 3 classes each day. Each class has cards in a different color. Names from students in the teacher's first class of the day are on green cards, the second class's names are on pink, and the third are on blue.)

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I always enjoy working with teachers in Lafayette, IN, where I taught classes on literacy work stations. During the training we brainstormed ideas for having an observation station in K-2. You might cover a table with a large piece of bulletin board paper, set up in a similar fashion to the chart pictured below. Place an object or two in the middle for kids to observe, place a few related books at this station, and include a magnifying glass. Possible objects include: fall leaves, rocks, shells, a bug in a jar, an ant farm, worms in a terrarium… The possibilities are endless! Provide crayons or colored pencils for students to jot down their observations and thinking in words and pictures on the paper.

First, talk with your class about questions they might answer as they observe, and list each question in a quadrant on the paper. Here’s a sample of what this might look like. Please let me know if you try this in your classroom. We’d love to see pictures of what your kids do!

Sample recording space for an observation station in primary grades

Teachers discuss ideas at training in Lafayette, IN at Wabash Valley Education Center

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Recently, I began working with a wonderful first grade teacher in Houston ISD. We looked at what he’s teaching about high frequency words and beginning sounds. I made some suggestions to maximize his resources and help children make connections with what he’s teaching. Here are some before and after photos:

Before: The sound cards he's teaching with were posted high on a wall in the order they were introduced. It will be hard for kids to access these after a bunch are introduced.

Before: Words were placed on cabinet doors in the back of the classroom. They were far away from the whole group teaching area, and it could be hard for some kids to connect to. There was a mixture of high frequency words and other vocabulary.

After: The word wall has been moved to a wall beside the whole group teaching area. Sound cards have been added to the word wall to make stronger connections and for ease of use by the children. Only high frequency words are placed on this wall

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In another class, some students wrote acrostic poems using their names and character traits describing themselves. They also used a thesaurus as a reference for higher level vocabulary as they created their poems. The teacher provided fancy scissors, so they could create a special keepsake of their poem. Highly motivating for kids this age!

Students write acrostic poems using their names and character traits describing them. Here is one for Elvis.

And here's one for Amanda.

They use a thesaurus to find higher level vocabulary.

Fancy scissors are an inviting tool for creating poems to take home.

A finished acrostic poem!

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