Friday, August 1, 2014

A Blank Canvas...Planning Your Walls with Purpose

It is amazing that the previous school year is over, vacation is a vivid memory, and professional learning has begun. 

When the new school supplies start to come out at Target or Wal-Mart, I get a little giddy. What is it about school supplies and teachers? I mean, who can resist all those Post-It notes and composition books?

I remember getting excited every year, at the end of summer,  just thinking about setting up my classroom. What theme will I use? What color butcher paper? Do I need new border? Do I want to organize my room by content? 

I used to spend so much time filling my walls with cute pre-made posters. It took some time and some peace to let go of having my room look "done." Instead, I set a goal to allow the kids to be the ones who created the resources and work for our walls. I could make it cute, but would it be useful to kids? A print rich classroom begins one letter or word at a time. Give yourself permission to start with a beautiful, blank butcher paper canvas. Here are some things to think about...

1. Will I have a word wall? Where? Was it a useful student used tool in the past? If not, why?

2. Will I have other word walls other than just a grade level high frequency word list? i.e. number words, color words, student names, math vocabulary, homophones, synonyms, antonyms The list could go on and on. 

3. Where might my reading strategy (aka Figure 19) anchor charts go?

4. Will I hang pictures of my favorite authors so they get to know them as fellow writers?

5. Where will I frame my lesson each day? Is there  a chart or space on my white board?

6. What on my walls did we actually use and refer back to? Space, like time,  is precious. Don't waste it on something that didn't help support your students' learning. 

Having a plan and reflecting on what worked (or didn't) in the past should help drive your decisions about your walls for the year. 

Remember, a blank canvas is a beautiful thing. Having a plan for that canvas is what creates art.

Up next...Creating a Student Centered Word Wall!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Learning to Love Poetry

Poetry is one of those areas of language arts that is a little scary for some. Poetry is unpredictable. There is no plot line, grammar rules don't apply, and you have to look a little deeper to see "inside" a poem. However, students tend to LOVE poetry. They love it because it is unpredictable. Students see immediate success when writing poetry, especially your struggling writers. Reading poetry with your students can be a great way to learn with your students. They often have insights into poetry that you as an adult may miss. You don't have to have all the answers. There are no "right" answers in poetry. It just is. 

Mrs. Garrison was my 7th grade reading teacher. She had us memorize a poem after reading The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. I assume many read that as middle-schoolers as well. I think we are still reading it today in my district. Anyway, Mrs. Garrison had us memorize the poem and recite it for a grade. At the time, I just did what I was supposed to do. Now, I look back at that poem and see with different eyes. I didn't take the time to slow down and listen to the words. 

Nothing Gold Can Stay
by Robert Frost

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower; 
But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day. 
Nothing gold can stay. 

Take a minute and see if there is a poem out there that triggers a memory. You may be surprised. 

Happy Reading,

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

April is National Poetry Month!

 Yes my friends, it is that wonderful month again…April. And you know what that means…NATIONAL POETRY MONTH!!!! My goal each April is to turn more adults (teachers) and more kids onto poetry.

The Top 10 Reasons to LOVE Poetry
  1.  Poets have a different point of view.
  2. Poetry breaks the rules!
  3. Poetry can be about anything…even a paperclip!
  4. Poem in Your Pocket Day…April 24!
  5. It’s easy to collect and find.
  6.  Poetry often has a fun rhythm and engages the brain.
  7.  It helps build fluency and confidence in reading.
  8. Poetry is easy to write and share.
  9. It can make you giggle, cry, smile, *sigh*, and even break out in goose bumps.
  10. Poetry is FUN!!!!!!

Poem in Your Pocket Day is April 24! Encourage your students to check out poetry books from the library, find funny poems, write their own poems, etc. this month. I would love to see some great poetry around the schools.

Join me in getting our students excited about reading and writing poetry.