Wednesday, November 25, 2015

I don't know what to write about

  Can you hear that voice? During Daily 5 "centers", Work on Writing is the hardest for my second graders. They struggle with coming up with things to write about. Teaching in an urban setting, a good chunk of my kiddos do not have the life experiences to draw from to give them ideas. We live minutes from Lake Michigan, and some have never been there! So when faced with a blank piece of paper staring them down, I hear that phrase several times a day.
   We are working on building independence. At the beginning of the year, we made a list of things that they could write about and wrote it on the inside cover of their writing journals. In my writing center we have paper to make post cards, paper to make lists, and paper to write stories or letters to friends. I had to tell them that they could only make one list a day, because that is all they would do if I let them.
   I was looking at leftover journals that I had that were missing pages, and taking up precious cabinet space. I couldn't give them to kids with only half the pages, so I thought: "What if I turned them into kind of a shared journal?" So my journal prompts were born!

 On the cover, I asked a couple questions to get their brain thinking. Then on the inside cover I made a vocabulary page with the words and matching pictures. So, if they had never been to the beach, then they could see a few things that they could do there and be able to write about it. So far the beach one is their favorite!

  You can find them in my TpT Store HERE. I am going to make this a "growing bundle" and will be adding more as I go. My store will be on sale November 30 - December 1st, so catch them on sale!

Happy writing y'all!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

I got rid of my clip chart!

In my fourth year of teaching, I had a boy in my first class, who was your typical ADHD kid. He struggled with staying in his seat, shouting out and disrupting my class. I had a system in place where kids stayed one color unless they had to flip a color down. He was constantly on a "bad" color. His mom questioned my system, and I stood by it, claiming I had never had a problem before. But that question started a ball rolling in my mind....what could I do better?

Mind you this was way before Pinterest, so I went to the Pro Teacher community, and found the glorious clip chart, so I talked my teammates on board and we rolled it out the next year. I LOVED the fluidity of it, allowing kids to turn their day around. It worked great, until I came to "Mark". He had anger issues, and would threaten me with fists if he had to clip down, or if I called home. We tried several different things until we found what worked for him, but because I never had encountered a child like him, it didn't open my eyes yet.

I switched  from first grade to second grade and schools to an urban environment and the clip chart brought about things in kids I had never seen before. There was such anger and emotions attached to moving the clip down. Almost every day there were walls punched, chairs knocked over, angry outbursts, and students almost literately having to be dragged from my classroom to the bus because of a number I wrote on a calendar. I DREADED the end of the day and the fall out that ensued. The affect that "clipping down" had on my students caused probably half of the referrals that I wrote.

Fast forward two years later, I had been kicking around the idea of something else, and had read several blog posts about doing it, when my colleague came to me with the super improver wall. She found the idea here, I jumped on board!

At open house I told my parents that I wasn't dropping the clip chart for the majority of my students. Those kids do what I ask most of the time out of respect for me and their learning. They don't need me to move their clips. I was getting rid of the clip chart for my kids who have to clip down, and emotionally can not handle it. When in researching it I found this quote from Jane Nelson: “Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse? Think of the last time you felt humiliated or treated unfairly. Did you feel like cooperating or doing better?” This struck a chord with me, and reaffirmed what I was doing. 

Two and a half months later, I am not looking back! I think that a good chunk of our problems arise in class when we, as teachers, do not give thorough enough directions or expectations. I have repeated some things 10,000 times....or at least it feels like it!  I have a hand full of kids whom have had plenty of personal invitations to my expectations, so we are now working on personal goals for our SWAG board.

I have by no means, perfected anything, I am EXHAUSTED more this year than before, but to see kids whom have struggled in the past, not have as hard of time, is completely worth it!