Sunday, September 27, 2015

Five Things I've Learned Outside the far

Hey all!

So before school started, I planned my year and my units for grades 3, 4 and 5.  Well...surprise! I'm also teaching 2nd grade also!  So far, it's been nice.  I have intervention groups in the mornings and then I teach 3 or 4 classes in the afternoon.  Life outside of a traditional classroom is different than I thought it would be.  I made a couple of mistakes that I correctly quickly and wanted to share a few things I've learned in the first few days of school.

1.) Classroom Management FIRST
I should have know this.  But I thought the kids would be sick of talking about rules and expectations by the time they reached my room, so I sat them on the carpet to read.  I didn't make that mistake more than once.  I had a group of excited third graders who just loved A Bad Case of Stripes and called out again and again.  In the next class we set the rules and I introduced Class Dojo.  The turnaround was almost instantaneous for almost all of the students.

2.) Same lesson plan, totally different lesson
NYC is kind of crazy about writing lesson plans.  They are basically novels.  One nice part of seeing 3 fifth grade classes is that I can re-use my lesson plans.  The interesting part of that is how much difference you see in the lesson based on the kids sitting in front of you.  Answers to questions vary and the lesson takes an unexpected turn.  I've used mistakes and misconceptions from my students in one class to make my questioning and teaching more precise in the next class.  In a traditional classroom you can do that also, but it's often a year before you teach that lesson again.  I'm teaching the same lesson on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but to different kiddos.  I can refine my lesson right away.

3.) Our school has a lot of kids.
Another "duh" observation, but I teach EVERY second, third, fourth and fifth grader in our school.  I haven't done an official count {because I don't really want to know!} but I estimate that I've met 400 students.  Luckily, I know some of the kids because I've taught their older siblings, but for the most part, learning 400 names is a Herculean task that I have not completed. I continually ask kids to say their names before responding to questions.  I'd guess that I know about 100 names.  {Also, our school has at least 5 sets of twins and this is slightly delaying the process.}

4.) I'm a celebrity.
I can't walk anywhere in the school without having kids (who's names I do not yet know!) wave and say hello.  It's an awesome feeling.

5.) Lower grades are cute, but fifth grade has my heart
I love the conversations that are happening in the second and third grades. I can see how hard their teachers get them to work on accountable talk and listening to the speaker.  They are so eager to please also!  But when you are looking for depth in your conversation, fifth grade is where its at!  Some kids are just bursting with big ideas about the text.  Lower grade students seem to have greater difficulty addressing the question posed. Upper grade students are much more productive in that regard.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Peek at My Year - Fifth Grade Literacy

This is my final post about my year long plan for the position I've taken for next year.  I'm teaching a supplemental literacy program for grades 3, 4 and 5 and I get to design it myself! Because it is a supplement, I didn't worry about covering all of the standards, just creating units to engage my readers.

Today I'll share my plan for my favorite grade - FIFTH!

Just like in grades 3 and 4, we will begin with typical reader's workshop mini lessons.  We will share Because of Winn Dixie.

In November and December, we will work on a character study.  Students will conduct their own in their independent reading books and I will model using Wonder.  I'm so excited to share this book with so many readers this year!

In January and February, we will repeat a unit that was a favorite from last year - celebrating black history through literature circles.  I offered books that focused on African American characters and even some nonfiction that dealt with African American history.  My students loved this unit because it coincided with our reading of Heart and Soul and my students learned SO MUCH.  It was such a positive unit that my students asked me to repeat the book offerings so they could keep the unit going! The books I offered were: One Crazy Summer, Sounder, I Survived the Battle of Gettysburg, Who was Harriet Tubman, What Was the Underground Railroad.  

In March and April, we will examine nonfiction.  I plan to use text sets about space.  We will begin with a basic text about space to fill in any gaps in their prior knowledge and then move on to more detailed text.  We will also read a first hand account from Buzz Aldrin to differentiate between expository and narrative nonfiction.

Credit: Amazon
Our final unit is to read like a fan.  This is another of Lucy Calkin's units that I am going to adapt.  We will read books by our favorite authors.  I plan to share more of Kate DiCamillo's texts during this time.  Students will choose their favorite authors to study. 

Only a few more days until school begins!  I hope you all are off to a great start!