4th grade, ELA, elementary

Why read?

“Reading ought to change us….reading ought to enable us to change ourselves.” — Robert E. Probst

This quote has been ingrained in my mind since I read Disrupting Thinking last summer.

This quote has changed me.

I have always been focused on doing the best I can in my profession. I always wanted to use the next best “tech” thing in my classroom. I felt like I was up to date because I went to professional development whenever it was offered and I worked to expand my professional learning network by joining Twitter. After reading Disrupting Thinking I realized I was missing out on so much more.

I always struggled with how to get my students to read more. I provided a classroom library with books I thought would be interesting to them. I offered choice in our class book clubs. Even through my efforts, there was something missing.

I wasn’t reading.

I didn’t know what books were good, I merely went on hearsay. I couldn’t talk books with my students because I wasn’t reading their books.

I decided to make a change.

I love to read, but I wasn’t reading things that were helping me make connections with my students. So, I began reading their books. I began reading picture books. I joined the #classroombookaday (@heisereads) crew and began reading a picture book everyday to my students. I began paying attention to book recommendations from Jennifer LaGarde (@jenniferlagarde) and Pernille Ripp (@pernilleripp), and actually reading the recommendations.

I began talking books with everybody, not just my students. I was confident when I gave a recommendation to my students because I had read the book I was recommending. I was able to point students in the direction of a book that would interest them because I knew my students and I knew what the books were about.

I was changing. I was becoming more empathetic and understanding. I grew up in a very small town. My knowledge of people that didn’t look like me or weren’t from my parents’ economic standing was very limited. By reading about others, I was becoming more aware of personal situations because I had read a book that enlightened me a little more of situations I previously didn’t know anything about. Instead of being quick to say, I can’t believe someone would do that, I paid more attention to their situations and began thinking about things from their perspective. We can provide this for our students. We can give them opportunities to read about kids who aren’t like them and allow them to develop empathy for someone else. We can give them opportunities to read about kids who are like them…not always like us. Allow them to see themselves and find a connection to a character in a story. We can help students see reading as a gift.
“Reading ought to change us…..reading ought to enable us to change ourselves.” — Robert E. Probst

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So…did it work?

Throughout this year and last, I have been talking about the power of a read aloud. This year we embarked on #classroombookaday. Before I started I was seriously second guessing my ability to read a picture book, continue to do a novel read aloud, and teach everything I needed to. After our first week of doing a picture book a day, however, I was hooked!! I am not sure if you know this or not but there are TONS of great picture books out there! A lot that are new releases and totally relevant to your students.

Doing #classroombookaday (@heisereads) coupled with Book Head Heart (Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst) was the highlight of my day. I know I have said this MANY times before, but it totally was!!

So now I guess you are wondering, did it work? Did it work, or was it just something fun I wanted to do during the day.

I guess in order to answer this question, you have to know what I wanted my students to get out of it.

I wanted my students to learn about people that don’t look or act like them.
I wanted my students to feel a connection with a character that did look and act like them.
I wanted my students to be motivated or inspired by an amazing person in history (whether they had heard of that person perviously or not).
I wanted my students to choose books on their own.
I wanted my students to have a book move them, or help them learn something more about themselves.
I wanted my students to become readers, to see themselves as readers.
I wanted my students to READ!

So….did it work? Did I accomplish everything on my list?

Yes!

When asking my students about the experience, they can all tell you which book was their favorite. The amazing thing is, I think all 23 students in my class would choose a different book. All of my students were motivated or inspired by someone we read about that they may not have previously known. Many were inspired by Malala, some were inspired by the men who built the Empire State Building, some were in awe of the kids who stood up for what they felt was right. I had students who said they would “never like to read,” picking books out for me during their media time to read to the class. I had students writing books that resembled the books we read in class.

Making reading a integral part of your classroom is important. Making reading fun, not judgmental, is important. Students should be able to enjoy reading without being questioned afterward. They need to enjoy reading for the experience, not just to answer multiple choice questions. My challenge to you, is to find ways to help students enjoy reading again! Do what you can to bring the joy back.

Here is our #classroombookaday experience!Screen Shot 2018-06-10 at 9.27.00 PM

Literacy, Reflection

What the Wild Robot Taught Me

Thank you Peter Brown for writing this amazing story that my students so easily connected with.

Last school year, The Wild Robot by Peter Brown (@itspeterbrown) was chosen as the Global Read Aloud book for 2017. I always know that Pernille Ripp (@pernilleripp) chooses great books, so I was excited about reading it during the summer. As I was reading the book this summer, I wasn’t enthused. It didn’t seem deep to me. I couldn’t figure out what  questions I could ask that would make the kids think. I went through a time where I wasn’t sure if I was going to read it to my students because I just didn’t know if they would like it or if it would make them think enough…

I pushed all that aside and decided I would just see what the kids thought. Peter Brown didn’t write this book for me or people my age, he wrote it for kids. Plus, I have full confidence in the choices made for Global Read Aloud.

When I began reading this story to my students, I was amazed at how quickly they fell in love with Roz. They felt for her, they wanted to know what happened to her, they thought she was funny.  As we finished up, they had to know what was going to happen next. Thankfully, Peter Brown was in the process of releasing the sequel, Wild Robot Escapes. 

When Wild Robot Escapes came out, I purchased it because I knew my students would be thrilled to read it next. The only problem was, my stepdaughter saw it first. Her teacher had also read Wild Robot to her class, and she also had to see what happened next. (A little background on my stepdaughter, she doesn’t normally go crazy over books. She likes to read, but it is not normally her first choice in activities.) So I reluctantly let her have it first. She was so proud having this book in her book bag on the way to school. When she walked in her classroom, she was showing the book off to all of her classmates and they all wanted it next!

When it was my turn and I could finally share this book with my students, they were thrilled! As we were reading my students fell more in love with Roz, and I began falling in love with Roz too. The last few chapters had me tearing up and then I realized my initial thoughts on this book duo were all wrong. The Wild Robot has depth. It helps students realize why kindness is important and how a simple act of kindness can set things in motion. Students can relate to Roz and Brightbill. They can feel for them, they can laugh with them, they can worry with them.

The Wild Robot taught me that when I read books and look to select a book for a class read aloud, I need to look at it from the perspective of a kid. The authors didn’t write the books for adults like me, they wrote it for the kids. We are here for the kids, it’s not always about us. The truth is, we may see rocks where kids see diamonds.  We need to open our eyes to see things more like our students.

4th grade, Education, Meagan Parrish, Reflection

This test will not show…

It is the time of the year that all educators dread…..testing season. Anxiety is up for students, teachers, and administrators. Instead of enjoying the last month and a half with our students, we feel the pressure of making sure they are ready for the test. I have read many blog posts and listened to podcasts of educators who are much wiser than me and can express themselves much more eloquently on this same subject. Here are a few of the ones that have really hit home.

Pernille Ripp– A Few Thoughts on Standardized Testing
Donalyn Miller– Desertification/
Todd Nesloney– STAAR student/parent letter
Mark Barnes– Hack Learning Uncut Episode 115- “The Worst Thing You Can Do To Your Students”

And here is my opinion…

This test is one day, this test doesn’t accurately assess what all the students have learned this year.

This test will not show that I had one student who told me repeatedly at the beginning of the year that she would NEVER, EVER find a book she enjoys, but last month found a series she likes and is on her second book in the series.

This test will not show that the students have heard a picture book read to them everyday and have had amazing discussions about the characters in the books. It will not show the thoughtful conversations and what the students have learned about themselves or felt in their hearts.  It will not show what the students have learned about other cultures and other amazing people.

This test will not show the student who is making progress in his ability to read, but still turns red anytime he is asked to do a reading task because he lacks confidence and because of different reasons, to him, reading is hard. The test will not accurately depict his brilliance in making and creating. It will not show the confidence he has grown in other aspects. It will not show the progress he has made in using skills to sound out words, because the test is long and hard.

This test will not show similar stories of students throughout my school, my county, and my state.

I am proud of my students and what they have learned this year. There were two things I hoped my students would walk away from 4th grade knowing
1. I want them to know that they are valued and their dreams can become reality.
2. I want them to learn about others and be compassionate people.

I am proud of my students no matter what the test shows.

ELA, Literacy, Meagan Parrish

Using Context Clues Pathway

New pathway is complete! Since we use a standards based grading system, I really liked the way the last couple of pathways were formatted. Having the three tiers/entry points have allowed me to complete a short pretest/pre-observation and start students at the entry point on the pathway that is the best fit for them.

As always, please let me know if you have any suggestions! Please copy and use if it fits the needs of your classroom!!

Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 10.02.03 PM

For more pathways for 4th grade ELA, go to bit.ly/elapath4 — As always, I am welcome to feedback. I want to make sure I am offering my students the best learning environment possible!

4th grade, ELA, Literacy, Meagan Parrish, Modern Classroom

Grateful for Great Books

This week we started looking at standard RI 4.9– Integrating two texts in order to speak or write knowledgeably about a subject. Keeping with the same format of our last pathway, I wanted to break apart the standard. I found it a little more difficult to tier this standard so I combined one that I felt would help students apply their knowledge of integrating two texts.

I LOVE this pathway, the students also LOVED this pathway. For this, the students didn’t get as much choice in the process, but more choice in the material they read and what they created. I am so very grateful for the Johnston County Education Foundation for the two grants our class was awarded this year. Because of them I was able to offer books for the students to read for multiple texts. They were so much more engaged this year using picture books than they have ever been before when using online texts!

Also grateful for @kellyihilton for sharing what she created for student TED talks!

Click the image to see the full pathway!

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For more pathways for 4th grade ELA, go to bit.ly/elapath4 — As always, I am welcome to feedback. I want to make sure I am offering my students the best learning environment possible!

Education, Professional Development, Reflection

NCTIES Recap!

 

Last week I attended NCTIES and as usual, it didn’t disappoint!

The beginning keynote was from Kristin Ziemke (@kristinziemke). She discussed giving students a way to tell their story. Help students see their devices as “empathy machines,” machines that can help them learn from others. Students need a way to tell their story. We need to help them find a meaningful way to do that.

I went to a session by Tavia Clark (@tavia_clark) and Brittany Miller (@AModernEducator). I love their ideas for helping students develop high levels of agency.  They developed different learning stations in order for us to work through what we wanted to learn more about. Each topic was different, but each focused on helping students develop independence in their learning. All stations included ideas we could use in our classrooms. My two favorite activities were The Amazing Race and Choose Your Own Adventure. Here is a great article included in that session!

I was also fortunate enough to see Jennifer LaGarde (@jenniferlagarde). I love everything she does! She spoke about using books to help students develop empathy. She spoke about a few amazing books that we could use with our students to help them see themselves or learn about others. She included these two images in her slides. Our students need diverse books in their lives!

Last but not least, there was Kevin Carroll (@kcatalyst). The closing keynote was absolutely amazing! The quote that stuck with me the most was, “All of us are dealing with things…wonderful and challenging.” “You might go through something terrible as a child, but you can do something amazing as an adult.” This point stuck with me. Our students go through terrible things, things we as adults couldn’t imagine going through. We have to help them see the light at the end of that tunnel. We have to help them realize that their whole life doesn’t have to be that way.

“Play is serious business.”

“You’ll find the future wherever people are having the most fun.”– Stephen Johnson (Wonderland)

NCTIES as usual, didn’t disappoint! It left me motivated and ready to try new things!

 

ELA, elementary, Literacy, Reflection

Standards Based Teaching and Learning

Today, we had an early release day. Our school has decided to take a closer look at standards based teaching and learning. Our principal (@jamielin27) and TLC (@robinmhiatt) developed and presented a deeper look into this topic.

During this PD we discussed the importance of breaking down the standard in order to help students reach the most complex part of the standard. Standards based grading isn’t how many did they get correct out of how many, but are they able to fully present information based on the entire standard.

My teammates and I looked at standard RI 4.8– Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support their points about a topic. We decided to break this standard down into 4 parts–

  1. What is the author’s topic? (If a student can identify this, we feel that they are at the beginning of understanding this standard.)
  2. What reasons did the author use to support the topic? (If a student can identify all of the reasons, we feel like they are beginning to progress towards mastery of this standard.)
  3. What evidence did the author provide to support their reasons? (If a student can identify the supporting evidence, they are continuing to progress towards mastery.)
  4. Did the author’s reasons/evidence provide sufficient support? Why or why not? If no, what details could they have added to make a stronger argument? (If students can answer these questions, they have fully mastered their standard.)

Thinking about this breakdown, I decided to revamp the pathways I have been trying to implement this year. Instead of having the full standard, it is important to see student progress throughout each piece of the standard. This also provides me with the opportunity to start my students where they need to begin. Not all students will need section 1 of the pathway because some students already know how to identify the topic. or author’s opinion. Having the pathway tiered will allow students to begin at the entry point they are ready for.

Everything I do is a work in progress… Please feel free to give suggestions!

Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 10.05.16 PM

Click the image to see the full pathway!

4th grade, Reflection, Relationships

What Do You Do With a Bad Day

The “What Do You Do With…” series is one of my favorites! This week my class was fortunate enough to have a mystery reader (Emily Hargrove) come read What do you do With a Chance.” I LOVE this book!! The kids loved this book! It talks about not letting opportunities pass you by. Take a chance even if it means you may fall on your face because you never know when you may get that opportunity again. This was such a great lesson for my students and for me.

Today was a different day, it definitely was not a great day in room 416. I felt like the students and I were battling all day and that is not the normal atmosphere of our classroom. It definitely felt like them against me. Everything we did I heard the groans. Every task that was ask of them was received by a rude comment. This was not my class. These were not the students that I discuss being kind with daily. I was frustrated with them and I couldn’t understand where the divide came from today. I had every intention of going in tomorrow and setting new rules. Possibly taking away the privilege of flexible seating. Letting them know that if their behavior didn’t improve their would be consequences.

After school we had a staff meeting to discuss our book club choice books. It was pretty apparent, for the most part, the teachers were not super excited about this walking in. We ended up playing The Game of Life created by Jennifer LaGarde (@jenniferlagarde) and Tavia Clark (@tavia_clark). I had revised the questions to match our needs as a staff. I had worked hard on this and my principal took the time to make the materials look beautiful!! (Thank you Jamie Tyler! @jamielin27) Knowing the day I already had I was really hoping the afternoon would be successful but I wasn’t too confident judging by the other teachers’ faces. My rough day had given me a glass half empty view on the rest of the day.

To my pleasant surprise, the staff LOVED the game! Everyone was talking and laughing and learning from each other. It definitely gave me time to clear my head and reflect…

Maybe it was me. Maybe what I was asking of my students wasn’t relevant to them or they didn’t see the importance. I don’t think my students have to love everything they learn, but I do feel that they need to see the relevance and understand why we are learning it.

I’m not in our classroom to show the kids who is boss. I am in our classroom to help the students grow as individuals. Throwing an adult temper tantrum does not help my students grow. Having discussions might…

So, what do you do with a bad day, you reflect on it, you learn from it, and you move on.

Education, Modern Classroom, Relationships

My “why”

For the past year I have been thinking about my “why.” I have also been thinking about the importance of my chosen career.

When I was in my senior year of high school I decided I wanted to be a teacher. I wasn’t quite sure why, but I knew something was pulling me to the profession. I applied for the North Carolina Teaching Fellows scholarship and completely blew my interview because I wasn’t genuine when explaining my ‘why.” It wasn’t because I didn’t want to be a teacher, it was because I didn’t know why.

I attended Appalachian State University, one of the best Schools of Education in the state. For our graduation portfolio, we had to write our teaching philosophy. By writing this, I was able to understand more of the type of teacher I wanted to be, but again, was far away from discovering why I was pulled to do it.

Luckily when I applied for my first job, I wasn’t asked why I wanted to be a teacher, but more about the type of teacher I wanted to be. My first three years, I was constantly trying new things to make my classroom a great place to learn. I thought if you made things cute and your kids were listening you were doing a great job! (Which I learned later is totally not true)

I switched schools after my first three years and began understanding a little more of what I wanted in my classroom. I wanted my students to make choices and to learn how to become independent learners. Still a few years from discovering my why, I was working towards a better classroom environment for my students. I knew it was important to prepare students for when they didn’t have someone there telling them what to do.

I then switched schools again and began my journey towards discovering my why. I started working as the technology facilitator at a school, but soon realized that was not where my heart was. I love technology and I love working with new apps and gadgets, but I love working with curriculum, students, and other teachers more. I asked to go back into the classroom and actually began reading books that would help me become a better teacher.

Skip to three years later, I have been to conferences and heard Pernille Ripp, George Couros, Kristin Ziemke, and Jennie Magiera. I have read some amazing books that have helped me form a better understanding of my classroom and my why– Shift This by Joy Kirr, Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz, Empower by AJ Juliani and John Spencer, Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst. I have listened to podcasts and read blogs. All of these educators have helped me to discover why I was pulled to this career in the first place. They have helped me discover my “why.” They have helped me become better for my students.

My “why”– To help guide my students to not only graduate high school and go to college, but also to do good in the world. Become compassionate people that care for one another. Become the type of people that fight for what is right. Become the type of people that help those in need. Help guide my students to find something they are so passionate about, that they will do anything to accomplish their goal.