Saturday, January 25, 2014

CAFE - the first week

Just bought Jon Scieszka's Knucklehead
for my classroom.  It looks like it might be a great read for some of my more reluctant boys.  And it's a biography, so it'll encourage them in a genre they don't usually go for.  And I even learned how to pronounce his last name - I googled it and found a video clip of him explaining it, "Scieczka rhymes with Fresca."  Who knew?

We had staff development on Monday, no school on Tuesday, and 2-hour delays on Wednesday and Thursday, so introducing CAFE to my classes this week kept getting mov3earound. In some ways though, the shorter time frame for each class was perfect for introducing the concept, or handing out materials, before our first regular day on Friday.

So here are the pros and cons from Week 1:

1.  Students love the individual time I'm giving them.
2.  They're very receptive to what I'm sharing with them and kind of eager to start reading with more focus. (We'll see if that lasts!)
3.  I love having the chance to hear each of them read a little; it's really helpful.  And with 76 kids, I didn't always get to do that.
4.  So far it hasn't been too difficult to figure out what students need to work on.  I was worried about that.

1.  I'm supposed to keep these conferences to less than 3 minutes?!
2.  Students don't always know what to do when they have questions.  They don't know if the old rules for how to get help are still in effect.  I need to teach that.
3.  I hate to cut a student off when he/she is talking.  One student talked to me for ten minutes about three different books he was reading.  I didn't want to be the one telling him I couldn't listen because I had to move on to another student.  He was so eager to share!  But that seriously cuts into conference times!  I'm hoping once we get into the rhythm of things, I'll be better at this.

One student came up to me after class and told me how much she liked that I was her teacher.  She said she'd loved what we'd done that day, and couldn't wait to come back for more.  How sweet.  And how thoughtful of her to come up and tell me.  Kids like that keep you teaching!

Have a great rest of your weekend!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tried it Tuesday

It's not that I don't want to link up with Tried it Tuesday most weeks, it's just that after teaching all day and coaching Quiz Bowl after school, I lose my brain.  There's just nothing left for me to give.

But today?  Well, today was our fourth snow day.  Yup.  Now we get to add them on to the end of the year. But I have brain power left!  And so I get to link up!

 And I get to tell you about a cool new app I found (but haven't tried yet with students) that looks really neat.  I can't wait to show it to my students.  I just need to be able to see them.  In school!

It's called Telagami.  Sorry.  No pictures.  But, you can download it on iPads or use it on laptops.  Basically students (or you - there's been WAY too much fun happening between my husband and our daughters!) Anyway, you create a character, complete with hair and eye color, clothing, mood, and background.  Then you record your message.  Easy to do!  I want some of my students to record themselves reading, because as you know, I'm about to start CAFE.
If we ever have school.

Some of my kiddos need to work on fluency and some need to listen to themselves, just to hear how they sound.  I'm hoping it will help them become a little more aware of their reading strengths and weaknesses.

Have you ever used it?  Are there other apps out there like that?  Do tell!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Starting CAFE midyear? Sure....why not?

If you've been following my blog at all, you know that I tend to "jump into the deep end of the pool" when I do things.  It's not because I'm so daring.  I think it's really because I can't predict what the challenges will be until I'm doing them.  Do you have students like me?  You know, the kind that just need to do it to learn it?

We spent all day Thursday with our lit coach and the Literacy Coordinator for the district, taking a look at what CAFE should look like in a sixth grade classroom.  We wanted to think through everything so that we'd be ready for next year.  By the end of the day, I think all of us were on board with the idea.  Only we wanted to try it this year.  Now, even though it'd be new for our kids.

For me, CAFE just feels like the right next step.  I know whether or not my kids love to read, and I know which ones I need to push a little more.  But this feels like it gives them a specific focus AND time to read in my classroom.  Every day.  That's HUGE!  So here's my bulletin board, shiny and bright, waiting to be filled up.   I can't wait to see what it looks like in about a month.

With sixth graders, and with starting mid-year, there'll be some things that need a quick review and we'll move on (at least I hope so!)  But some things will require time, and I'm hoping that this will fill that gap that I've been feeling for a while with my kids.  My biggest challenge has been to conference with my kids.  I just don't get to it nearly as much as I need to.  CAFE will force that issue for me, and because it gives each kid a focus for reading, I think those conferences will be more meaningful than the, "Talk to me about what you're reading" ones I've been having.

I'll keep you posted!

In keeping with the reading theme of this post, here's an idea I stole from ? pinterest?  someone's blog?  I really need to write these down!  I know the hot chocolate "mugs" came from More Than A Worksheet and her Winter Break Reading Challenge.

What a fun time the kids had!  They earned a marshmallow for their hot chocolate for every 30 minutes of reading they did over break.  Because we had a couple of snow days interspersed with our return to school, we didn't get to do this until this past week.  What fun!  The kids had a blast, and SHOCK! I totally forgot to take pictures.  I was having so much fun watching the kids read, talking to them about their books, and reading myself, that I forgot.

I'm trying to remember.  
Really truly!  
For those of you bloggers who remember, my hat's off to you!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Blogging linkys and resolutions for the new year

I haven't spend much time on my blog in the last few months and I'm really feeling out of the loop.  More on that in a bit, but today I decided to connect with Farley's Currently, and in the process of reading other blogs, found a bunch of good linkys to connect with.  Teachers are good people, you know?!

So, here's my first one, from Fifth in the Middle which is just a good reminder for why we bloggers do what we do.
      I am the queen of forgetting to take pictures in my classroom.  I get so caught up in what the kids are doing and scurrying around from group to group, or kid to kid.  Who carries their iPad or phone with them when they're doing that?  Not me.  But I know that it's more interesting to read blogs when there are pictures -- I'm that way -- and I'm sure most teachers are too.  So, I'm going to try to remember.  Wasn't that a song from like, way, way long ago? 
     I reflect a lot on my teaching.  A lot.  Probably more than is healthy.  Sometimes I feel like I don't want to share something on my blog if it didn't work well, but really?  How dumb is that?  We all learn from each other, and there are very few perfect teachers out there.  And I often learn more from my mistakes than my successes, so why not?
     Linking up with Farley's Currently - my goodness, no matter how disconnected I feel, I do try to link up with her for this. 

The long and the short of it is that my mother passed away unexpectedly just before Christmas.  Although she was 85, she was in reasonably good health, so her death was surprising and sudden.  I'm blessed that I could be with her in the hospital, holding her hand and talking to her as she passed from this life into the next.  And I'm blessed that my family had planned to get together two days later. We spent a lot of time talking, laughing, crying, and looking at old photos.  What rich memories!  But I will truly miss her.  She was an amazing example of how to live life graciously, even when things don't always go your way. 

She also reminds me to be generous with my love, and to understand that everyone, even the person I don't want to deal with, has a story.  And that maybe, if I take the time to hear it, it will change my assumptions and appreciation about the person.

And finally, here's a great little linky by Jennifer at Simpler Kinder.  Just sharing a link because there are so many other teacher-bloggers out there, and we should connect to each other.  We are all in this together!

So, my friends, here's to a new year!  Lots to do and lots to think about.  Wishing you good health and happiness, because when you have that, you are truly rich!