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2016 - Bring It On!

I am a struggling writer. I struggle with topic selection, getting started and a lack of self-confidence. And, although I love to write, I realize that I love the IDEA of being a writer more. The process of writing, with its concomitant failures and less-than-perfect results, is not a selling point for me.

In my mind's eye, I can almost see a blank book cover with my name on it, even if I can't envision what the book is about. I can imagine myself a part of an elite group of teacher-writers who are disciplined, serious and have interesting things to say. I tell myself, "That could be you! If only..." And there my thinking trails off and I return to a state of numbness where "if only" becomes a long list of self-pitying excuses for why I will never write well enough so that others can appreciate and learn from what I have to say.

Now that I've confessed my deepest feelings of inadequacy, I can let them go. Just like that. I resolve to stop thinking about t…
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Mini Lessons

Sometimes, I plan too many teaching points for one lesson. For example, instead of focusing on one strategy that students need in order to become more proficient readers and writers, I try to teach several strategies at the same time. 

Sometimes, I stretch out a teaching point beyond the 10- or 12-minute time limit I've given myself because I worry that my mini lesson wasn't enough or my students won't have understood what I intended to teach. So, sometimes, I beat the lesson to a pulp one too many times, or forget to have the kids practice the lesson before they go off to read or write. (Asking students to practice a lesson after you teach it, with you right there to observe and help guide students through the process, is very effective. Try not to skip this step!)  

Here's an example of a mini lesson that lasted less than 10 minutes and resulted in better learning.

My students are in the second round of historical fiction book clubs. In a couple of weeks, we will start …

Without my laptop...

Today I forgot my school laptop at home.
I had to get to school before the 7:00 am "pico y placa" restrictions, based on my license plate, went into effect. It wasn't until I got to school that I realized that the feeling that something-was-missing when I walked out the door was because something was missing!

Not having my laptop proved interesting.
I had to borrow an iPad from the tech office for the day.
For those things I couldn't do on the iPad, I used my phone.
Not ideal either way.

This experience made me realize how dependent I've become on computers to accomplish work at school.

Without my laptop, I couldn't use my document camera.
Without my document camera, I couldn't project the set of math problem solving strategies and some practice problems I had planned on doing with my students.
Without the use of the projector, I had to write everything on charts.

Without my laptop, I couldn't access any of my documents that weren't on Google Dri…

My Burning Question(s)

+Margaret Simon has challenged #DigiLitSunday bloggers to think about this: what is your burning question?

My first response? I don't have just one burning question. I have many burning questions. There is so much that I still don't know even though I've been teaching for many years. You'd think that I would have things pretty clear by now - structures, routines, and lessons established in my head and replicated from year to year. But, of course, the fact that every year we have a new group of students entrusted to our care means that, while some things can stay the same, many things cannot. We have to reinvent our classrooms from year to year to meet the strengths and needs of our students.  

When I reflect on this prompt, I invariably start with the should know's and don't know's before coming up with burning questions. Although I'm sure that's not where this question was hoping to take us, I feel compelled to get those out of the way first. So, her…

Today I slept in...

Today, I slept in.I didn't set my (two) alarm(s).I didn't rush out of bed to do anything.I just rested for a while and watched the sky get lighter and lighter.I had hushed conversations with my husband; my son was still asleep.
Today, I slept in. I contemplated potential changes in my life.Possible moves, professional and personal.New challenges.The unknown.
Today, I slept in.Change used to scare me.I never wanted to leave the Bay Area in California.I never wanted to live anywhere but there.
Today, I slept in.I thought Ecuador would be our last stop for a long time..the first time.Then, we went to Canada.And, it seemed like we would stay there forever.Well, six years can seem like forever.But, then we decided it was time to return to Ecuador.Build our dream house, which we did.Go back to a school I loved, which I did.
Today, I slept in.The future feels uncertain again.Anything is possible.Even no change is possible.But, I'm not worried.At least, I try not to worry...too much.

Questions

Today's post is short and sweet because I just got back from a night of playing Bunko with friends. 

I share some questions I'm grappling with in my classroom. 

No answers. 

Just questions.

(1) What purpose do math stations serve in my classroom?

(2) How can I continue to engage writers without overwhelming them or me?

(3) How can I determine if my tangled readers are learning to be better readers from the books they choose to read?

(4) How can I strike a balance between student choice and making sure my students learn what they need to learn at any given time?

(5) Am I demanding too much from my students?

As I find responses and solutions to these issues, I will post some ideas on my blog.

Any thoughts are more than welcomed! 


SIPS of Learning - PD by Teachers for Teachers

Yesterday, teachers at my school, Pre-K - 12, participated in an afternoon of professional learning courtesy of our colleagues. Every two to three months, a call for presenters is made and teachers volunteer to conduct a 30-minute session to their peers about an education-related topic. There are usually about ten workshops for teachers to choose from and teachers attend two different sessions during the afternoon.

Yesterday I participated in a workshop conducted by our 7th grade science teacher. She led a Critical Friends Group using a protocol to help teachers get ideas from others for a problem of practice. There were five of us altogether in the session and two of us got to share a difficult problem that we wanted help with.

The teacher who is looking for suggestions (in this case, me), talks for approximately 5 minutes about her particular classroom problem. Then, everyone asks clarifying questions. Next, the presenter recounts the issue at hand including what the teacher is aski…

Math Expert Groups, Take #1

Today we did expert groups in math for approximately 20 minutes.
It was my first attempt at organizing students into self-selected groups with one student responsible for teaching the rest of the group a particular math skill.

First, I asked my students to think of something in math they felt comfortable teaching someone else. Then, they wrote this down on a sticky note. Next, I collected the sticky notes and selected four students to lead four different groups. Finally, my students sorted themselves into groups by math topic.

At first, my students were reluctant to write down something in math they felt they could teach their classmates. They were reluctant to play along with me because their roles were not clear, even though I had prefaced this activity by saying that we were going to experiment with a new structure. In other words, we were bound to make mistakes and flounder our way through this event. Afterwards, we would talk about the next iteration of this activity.

Some stude…