Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Are school tragedies our new normal?

Just read online about the young high school teacher from Danvers, MA whose body was found today. This tragedy coming right on the heels of the teacher who was shot earlier this week.

My heart hurts for these families.  The huge hole of someone's death stays with you for a long, long time. My heart hurts for students, who need to return to school and make sense out of what happened.  And try to figure out how to make their school - for most of them a safe haven - feel that way again.

And my heart hurts for teachers all over this great country, as we try to put on a good face for our students, even as we wonder what in the world is going on right now.

And yet, in my heart of hearts, I still feel blessed to be a teacher.  To be in a school.  Touching the lives of kids every day.

Friday, October 11, 2013

My brain hurts! Reading and Writing in 6th grade

There's so much going on in my classroom these days.  I feel like we're in the swing of things, right?  After all, it's mid-October.  So how come I feel like I'm never quite caught up?  Do you feel that way, too?

Here's my Five for Friday linkup with Doodlebugs Teaching.  It's been a while since I linked up - with her or anyone else.

One of the best purchases I made from TpT about a year and a half ago, were these character traits cards from TarHeelStateTeacher.  My students refer back to them all year long.  Here are this year's students working together to come up with traits for themselves.

I loved watching them realize that they had traits in common.  This activity was good on so many levels!  They learned new words, they discovered how easy it was to transition from traits about themselves to traits about characters in books, and next week, we'll move to a quick review about adjectives, which will support their work in descriptive writing.  Wow!  All that from one purchase!

For the last two days, we've been pushing through some good Common Core questions which have "hurt their brains" as one student told me.  We've been looking at how dialogue gives the reader a chance to learn more about a particular person's character.  And then how their actions give evidence about the kind of person they are.  This is tough for 6th graders, who want to take everything at face value.  It requires them to look beneath the surface of the story and analyze an author's intent.  Wow!  The character traits cards were helpful for them to identify which piece of dialogue they wanted to focus on.  I have some of the most willing students this year.  They were able to hear my comments,go back to work, discussing with peers, then writing, rewriting, and writing some more.  I was really proud of them!

I'm working with a group of students that I want to take on a Common Core nonfiction journey.  In a blogpost last year, I wrote about a project I was doing with students, with each of them reading about a different country.  The study culminated in a Feast of the Nations, with each child bringing in food they'd made from a recipe from that country.  It was a great experience, and I hope I opened their eyes to some of the different cultures around the world.

It's my hope that they learn more about how to read nonfiction while developing an interest in visiting other countries.  Maybe even the one they read about in sixth grade!  Wouldn't that be cool?

The packet is in my TpT store if you want to take a look.

This is going to be my new back yard.  In a totally unexpected turn of events, my husband and I are moving.  Less than a 1/4 mile away.  Just across a main street and back against the park.  Because we weren't expecting to move, we have just a little gobs of work to do on our current house.                

I realized two days ago that we have Monday off.  I'm not a huge fan of Christopher Columbus these days, but this feels like a snow day to me.  Totally unexpected and free!

Hope you have a great weekend!