Thursday, July 5, 2012

4 or more on the {Fifth} and Teaching Smart

So it’s the fifth, but I love this idea of four on the fourth.  So I am going to give you my list of what I want to try.  I’ll warn you – it will probably go over four.  I also will give you my advice for teaching smart, based on lessons I have learned.

What do I want to try this year?  Lol…Blog-stalking is awesome.  The real question is what don’t I want to try?  Some people are afraid of change.   My dad thinks I’m like my mom – I embrace change.  My mom loves adventure and new experiences.  We moved a lot…all the time.  She still does.  I hate moving.  I don’t move, but I seem to keep changing jobs…and careers.  I love that with teaching though I can be creative and flexible and still have structure.  I might love change, but I also love organization.

My first year of teaching I changed the desk arrangement every week.  The first time the students freaked out.  By the fourth time or so, they couldn’t wait to see what it would be the next time.  My third year of teaching I was at a new school and exposed to Reading and Writing Workshops for the first time.  I read everything I could find, tried to be like the videos at our teacher in-service, and tried every possible arrangement of schedule humanly possible.  I have tried Reading one day and Writing the next day.  I have tried spending 45 minutes on Reading and 45 minutes of writing.  I have tried spending 3 weeks primarily focused on Reading and 3 weeks primarily of Writing.  What’s my point?  I’m sure I have one somewhere.  There are so many wonderful ideas in books, tutorials, professional development, blogs; however, the thing is just because it worked for someone else doesn’t mean it will work for you.  Trust me – If you can read about it, I’ve probably tried it. 

I think the hardest lesson I have learned as a teacher is to be myself.  Well, myself likes change.  But when I am myself I am excited about learning and the day.  When I try to conform to someone else’s way of doing, I get overwhelmed and frustrated and frazzled.  Kids respond to our moods and the emoticons we pervade.  So I have decided to accept that I like change and trying new things.  You can establish routine by always starting or ending the class the same way or having a consistent way of taking notes or assessing or by how we establish what our expectations are.  I love writing and literature, but the scheduling of a Reading/Writing workshop drives me nuts.  There are way too many things to fit in and not enough time.  So maybe the answer is to get rid of timewasters.  I love the idea of getting rid of Spelling Tests.  They take up a lot of time and most kids don’t really get much out of them.  I want to teach Spelling lists based on the Spelling rules.  I want to teach Greek and Latin Roots, Poetry, Grammar in a way that it has real application to writing, critical thinking, and a love of literature.  I love doing novel read alouds, but I find it hard to fit in a novel read aloud and literature circles.  So I think I will try mainly using short texts for read aloud while doing literature circles and use smaller texts for reading groups when doing a novel read aloud.  I have digressed, so I will return to what I want to try this year.
1)       Daily 5 – I just bought the books and want to do the book study this month for upper grades.  I have skimmed most of Café; I just need to start reading Daily 5.  From what I have read about on other blogs though, it seems like it would be worth trying.  Why not?  I’ve tried just about everything else, right?  I will have a much shorter block of time for Reading/Writing though than is always recommended in any book, so like anything else I am going to have to find a way to adapt it to fit my needs. 

2)       Keeping up with my weekly writing inspiration wall consistently.  I started this and never quite was as consistent with it as I would have liked, but I love it.  You can check out my post from yesterday.   I have found this weekly writing inspiration to be a great way to work toward being a literacy rich classroom.

3)       I will actually have a classroom where the kids will have access to laptops, so I want to use more technology.  I have labeled every technology related post I see in Google Reader with “technology resources.”  I need to sit down and do some more research on these awesome, amazing technology resources to figure out what I really want to use.  Who am I kidding?  I will probably find a way to try as much as possible.  Maybe have your students help review different types of technology?  See what they think is better and why.  I want to check out Weebly, Edmodo, iRubric, Kidblog, edublog, all the Read/Write/Think interactive writing organizer things…and whatever else Google Reader tells me I thought I wanted to try.

4)     Interactive notebooks – These seem like a great tool. I first saw them mentioned on A Teacher's Treasure.  I love teaching note-taking.  I think kids need to learn how to put thoughts down and learn to evaluate their own thinking process and how they best learn and study.

5)       Class writing notebooks – I think this is a great idea.  It’s like kid-made anthologies.  I think  I first saw this idea here on I Love My Classroom's blog. That is Emily's picture below.

6)       Teaching thematically – This is part of why I am excited to gather Science and Social Studies texts to share on my blog.  I feel like gathering good texts will be a good starting point for building lessons around any theme. 

7)       Not worrying if students don’t finish every piece of writing.  I got caught up in the mistake of grading the product instead of the process.  I start new projects all the time and it takes me forever to finish them.  We all think differently and work at different paces.  It took me a while to figure out this applies to students as well.  I have always focused my writing instruction more on writing a solid paragraph than completing a larger piece of writing.  However, there are those students who can’t finish any piece of writing.  Either they’re a perfectionist or they never start.  I would like to focus my writing assessment more on the quality of ideas and the coherency than getting too focused on the polish and sense of completion.

8)       To live and learn and teach with authenticity, joy, curiosity, and consistency.  (These four values have stuck with me ever since reading a post by Ann Voskamp back on March 30th when she explained why she homeschools.  I do not have kids and I don’t plan on homeschooling, but I love the idea of living my life with these four principles in mind.  It appeals to me on a deep level.)

So my advice to teaching smart? 
  • Be yourself.  
  • Learn from others and don’t be afraid to adapt.
  • Try to be aware of your own attitude and the moods you are emitting.  It sets the tone for the room.  (I am actually also curious about Whole Brain Teaching and Conscious Discipline.  I haven’t read much yet; I just have seen them mentioned on blogs.)
  • Find ways to be excited about learning instead of overwhelmed with the to-do-lists.  (This is the hardest part for me.)
  • Don’t grade everything.  Assess consistently, but don’t try to grade everything.
  • When you can, take the time to get to know your students.  (I don’t remember what my teachers taught me.  I remember the teachers who took the time to get to know the booky, overly mature loner who never fit in and thrived on adult conversation.)

Thanks for reading! J


  1. Loved reading about your list of ideas and goals! I love the point you make about not grading everything - I only grade about 1/2 of what I normally would last year and it was great! I had to really think about what I was going to assess and why. Made for a much less stressful year.

    Addie Education - Teacher Talk

    1. I agree. I went to a workshop where they said tto focus your assessment on the process and not the product. I thought that was very profound. It stuck with me.

  2. I love your advice for teaching smart! I have to remember not to get so overwhelmed. Sometimes I think I'm my own worst enemy when it comes to putting pressure on myself. :)
    Learning Is Something to Treasure

  3. You seem like a very reflective teacher- and that is an amazing and necessary quality to have! Thanks for sharing!


    Fancy Free in Fourth

  4. I love change too! My students learned quickly that desks change depending on the lesson. By second semester, my students knew what each arrangement meant and they were excited about it unless it was test day then I got this look :(. I had to learn to not grade everything after my first year because I spent so much time at home grading. Love your blog, especially the name!

    1. Thank you. I liked the idea of my blog being my storage container for my ideas. I have to embrace that I love change. It's just part of who I am. I just have to balance it out with consistency.

  5. This is so reflective and inspiring. It is exactly what advice a first year teacher needs to hear and what a veteran teacher needs to be reminded of. Thank you! Gives me something to think about.
    I have nominated you and your wonderful blog for an award, come on over and pick it up!
    Kindergarten Schmindergarten

  6. Loved what you said about being yourself! So true!

  7. Wow, what an excellent post! And a room full of laptops? I am so envious. :) thanks for linking up!



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