Thursday, May 30, 2013

End of the Year and Summer Learning

Tomorrow is Emily and my last day of school!!!
Our original last day was suppose to be last Friday.
Missouri seemed to love the cold weather and especially SNOW!!!
So three and half additional days tacked on.
But Summer break is upon us...
FINALLY!!! lol

So summer plans for me???

June will involve a large amount of revising to the 5th grade reading and writing units that I co-created.
I am sure I mentioned in early posts about how I spent the last year or so writing units of study, based on the ELA Common Core Standards, for my district.
It has been such a tremendous learning experience and overall I am so happy I embraced this challenge.
I am SOOO ready to be finished with them. lol
Not sure if they will ever truly be finished though because as I learn more about reading/writing workshop and Common Core, I want to change them for the better.
My friend Tracy, who is writing them with me, will probably want to or probably already has wanted to strangle me throughout this process. lol
We finished the revisions to the launching unit for writing last night and I already texted her today about changes I want to make.
Haven't heard back from her yet...
It's probably because it's the end of the year. lol

Here is what triggered today's desire to revise the unit...
once again:

I started reading Notebook Know-How Strategies for the Writer's Notebook by Aimee Buckner.
A friend of mine sent me this book today and of course it got my mind going.
It has some great information about why you should use notebooks and also some valuable lessons to use when launching your writer's workshop and notebook usage.

My district sent me Notebook Connections Strategies for the Reader's Notebooks to read and incorporate in the the reading unit revisions.
I absolutely LOVE this book.
I posted about it not too long ago after I had just started reading it- Reading Workshop- Notebook Connections.

So halfway through the book, my district asked the Teaching and Learning Coaches to write literacy related modules to use next school year, for professional development.
Guess what module I was chosen for???
One would hope reading notebooks because I was already reading Notebook Connections, right?
Not so much...
I was chosen to write the writer's notebook module.
Of course...
No worries!!!
Now I am reading Notebook Know-How.
I'm not writing the module until July.
So I am all good!
Plenty of time to get the writer's notebook one read. :)

I am halfway through chapter two.
Chapter One was titled Why Notebooks? and discussed just that.
It was great information and I have some wonderful quotes to use in my Powerpoint.
But the number one point I took from this chapter is what is a writer's notebook.
Here's what I read...
"A writer's notebook creates a place for students (and writers) to save their words--in the form of a memory, a reflection, a list, a rambling of thoughts, a sketch, or even a scrap of print taped on the page."
"It a place for students to practice writing."

I am not finished with chapter two yet but it is titled Launching the Notebook.
I had a huge AHA in this chapter.
Oral Storytelling...
So often students don't know what to write about or they feel they have "nothing valuable or of interest to others to say."
Aimee Buckner's first goal is to get her students to believe in themselves as writers.
She does this through oral storytelling.
Spend time right off the bat telling stories to the students and listening to their stories.
One story will trigger other students to connect through their own similar stories.
We all know this to be true.
One student tells about how he went to a water park and then suddenly 5 hands go up with similar stories.
This is the perfect time to introduce the notebook and send them off to tell their stories.

The next take-away from this chapter is taking the time to teach students strategies for finding things to write about.
Now this is nothing new to me.
I've done this in my launching units over and over...
But not the way Aimee does it.
In my launching, I would spend a day, maybe two, collecting writing ideas.

When I first started Balanced Literacy, it was simply jotting down idea after idea after idea.
Similar to this...

Then I moved to writing territories which looked more like this...
- baseball
- KC Royals
- Not a Cardinals fan (sorry St. Louis people lol)
- one of ten kids
- noisy Italians
- my dad passing away

I liked my second approach much better and still do not feel it is a bad way to collect writing ideas.
But I really liked the way Aimee uses strategies for finding writing ideas and spent longer than a day or two to teach them.
Her first lesson is talking about the History of a Name.
She read the book Chrysanthemum and then discussed the role of the main character's name in the book.
The importance of it...
She then has the students write about their names.
Maybe why their parents chose that name
special meanings
This could lead to how pets were named, names they wish they had, or characters' names in books.

The second strategy is so far my favorite.
(I haven't read any others, though because my mind took off after this one and I began taking notes all over the draft of my launching unit.  I also wrote a sample lesson for launching, based on this strategy.)
This strategy is called Writing from a List.
In this lesson, the students create lists (quite similar to my writing territories) on individual topics.
These could be things they are experts on, best/worst events in their lives, favorite words, hobbies, etc.
Now for how Aimee's takes what I did to the next level.
Next the students star or highlight things on their list they could write more about.
So simple...
Yet a duh moment for me, lol.
From here, the students choose something from the list to write more about.
Now that part I did do. ;)

She spends time teaching them strategies, like writing from a list, to come up with things to write about.
It is not something she does in a day or two.
Since it is something she wants them to continue to use throughout the year, she takes her time with it.

I look forward to reading the rest of the book.
I actually have to post this, so I can read some before bed.
So I must say goodbye! :)

Are you on summer break yet?
Do you have plans for some summer learning?

Antoinette :)


  1. Thank you Aimee-I am savoring your post as I sip my morning coffee. I am ordering both of those books you mentioned to use in my resource English class next year. I am replacing a retiring teacher and my kids are in desperate need of some new writing activities. When I was cleaning out my son's room the other day I came across his sixth grade writing notebook. I was so excited (I am a bit of a teacher nerd)at the gem I had come across. I thumbed through it and tucked it away so I could reuse some of the activities with my students this year. My heart swelled with thankfulness for his teacher. A well organized writing notebook is priceless and it also was a lesson to me that it was not just my genes that had helped him keep a 4.0 grade point (he is only going into 8th grade now). It was good teachers like you who take the time to teach students well. So, now I am armed with a new teaching position, my son's writing notebook and now these two books you blogged about. Thank you so much! I want my resource kids to experience writing success, instead of failure for a change and I will be keeping an eye on your blog. Thanks so much! Sorry for such a long post but it's the coffee your summer! P.S. I'm off to California TODAY to visit my sister (:

  2. ha ha Sorry I said Aimee. She is the author of the book-not the blogger (YOU).I went to order it and noticed that immediately.

  3. Lol- that's funny! :)
    I am so happy you enjoyed my post. I absolutely love these books They are easy reads and have great information.
    Hope you enjoy them as much I as am! :)

  4. I have read and love both books. So many wonderful ideas in them. These books truly get your balanced literacy juices flowing. :) Enjoy.
    Brandee @ Creating Lifelong Learners

  5. I put both of these books on my reading list. Not sure I will get to them over the summer but soon I hope to. Thanks for all the details.

    Think, Wonder, & Teach