Monday, November 14, 2011

"That Was Unexpected!"

I have the luxury of doing brain gym with our school community two days a week at our Community Time. Day one usually consists of teaching and modeling a new Brain Gym strategy that we can use, with day two being a pop quiz and taking a picture of a student modeling the strategy for our Brain Gym Wall. (We have pictures of all the strategies the students have learned this year posted so they can trigger their memory.) Each week, I give it my best while trying to inspire students to be all they were created to be. (All within five minutes of course!)
One particular week, I was giving it my best and I hear “Hey Mrs. X, Mrs. X… hey, hey!” I’m looking in the middle of our 350+ faces to see a precious special needs student who was in my class last year, enthusiastically participating and trying to get my attention. I acknowledged him as he became even more verbal and excited. I thought, ‘This is what it feels like to be heckled!’ (by a 6 year old) I couldn’t help but laugh.  Well, later in the day, this little fella approaches me with letter in hand. “Dear Mrs. X, I am so sorry I was hollering at you during Brain Gym. That was unexpected.” Well… that cracked me up. He evidently didn’t expect to holler at me! It was unexpected for both of us! His little face was so serious… but with a hint of ‘I wonder what I’m going to eat for dinner.’ This had me smiling the rest of the day. The unexpected behaviors are often the ones that get my attention and help me to notice the blessing in life.
From this point forward, I will march on, with my lesson plan in hand, but make sure along the way to let the “unexpected” grab my attention and remind me of how blessed I am to do what I do!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Teaching is like my golf game!

Today, I spent the day at the golf course! No, I wasn’t playing golf. Long gone are the days of summer… prior to the beginning of school! When school started, suddenly, my reading load became a bit intensified! I have found myself spending time with many of the greats: Doug Reeves, Lucy Calkins, Reggie Routman, Bear, Johnston, Invernizzi, and Templeton. Today, I spent the day in the cart reading! I love reading and synthesizing material to figure out just how I can implement it in the classroom! If the truth be told, my entire Masters was done… in the golf cart! Don’t get me wrong… I have come to love playing golf. My mind can get so wrapped up in my swing, where I want to place the ball and the complete frustration of trying to figure out what needs changed in my swing! I have learned it’s my motor, not my equipment! I love it… but when fall arrives, the reading takes over. I have found getting outside and being carted around while reading is a terrific way for me to ‘go deep’ with reading material. Let’s face it… I know I am there for at least 4 hours on a short day at the course! So it is a great place to study. There are always snacks and an occasional squirrel that has lost a nut!
This fall, instead of working on my game, I am trying to take Word Work to a more developed level in our classroom. In the past, I have used Fountas and Pinnell’s Phonics combined with Cunningham and Hall’s Word Work material for 1st grade. I feel very comfortable teaching with the material. Our grade level has put it into slides to make it easier to manage when introducing it to the class before turning them loose to do the activities.  I appreciate how the two (Fountas and Pinnell and Cunningham and Hall) have worked together so well, plan to continue using them, but I am ready to amp it up a bit. I spent the day reading Words Their Way. I noticed in the Lucy Calkins Common Core for Reading, she talks about using Fountas and Pinnell’s Phonics with Words Their Way to round out the Word Work in a classroom. So,  I have had my precious volunteer (she is in her upper 80’s) do  the copying and laminating of the material in Words Their Way while I am working to put this additional study in a manageable system to use in the classroom. But this Words Their Way is a bit more intensive. It is such fun to analyze where your students are as spellers. Word Work visually show us what students believe to be true about reading and writing. I have realized I have been using too much of a ‘spray and pray’ approach to Word Work.  I am already enjoying the differentiation that is about to take place in the classroom. It has been a fun day in the cart to attempt to synthesize this material. When I think of reading instruction, I always think of reading ‘to’, ‘with’ and ‘by’ the students. I am learning it is no different with Word Work. Fountas and Pinnell is the ‘to.’ Words Their Way is the ‘with’ the students. Using personal word work study for frequently misspelled personal words is the ‘by’ practice the students need! So really, teaching is much like golf! In order to improve you have to do the work, spend the time and let’s face it… keep your head down!