Life in 6 Words

After today, I HAD to pop on and post a quick note about today. We kicked off narrative writing (LOVE) today, and I was wondering how kids were going to respond. The goal is to do more workshop-style classes during the unit, and we started today with 6 word memoirs. Oh my goodness! The kids ate it up! During work time, kids were furiously scribbling, crossing out, erasing, smiling, furrowing their brows, and finally, looking at their work with pride as they dipped their toes into memoir writing. It was so much fun to see, and filled me with so much great energy! I’m reasonably certain my 2nd block thinks I’ve completely lost my mind because I was so excited to write with them and introduce them to this unit. But that excitement went viral – I cannot wait to see their final selections for this type of writing tomorrow! One that stuck with me today: “Life is a blank canvas. Paint.” My jaw dropped. So beautiful.

As for my writing? I had a different theme for each block as I wrote. I went from running in block 1, moved to my wedding in block 2, and finished with travel in block 3. Of course, I forgot to write my block 1 narratives down…hoping they come back to me! To say I’m excited for tomorrow is putting it lightly. 🙂 



The Boys (and girls) are Back in Town

Football is back! And with that, school is back in session as well. After a summer that passed in what seemed like the blink of an eye, it’s back to the schedule and routine of the school year. Students came back to us this past Tuesday, and we hit the ground running. 

This first week back didn’t involve much in the way of diving into our workshop model. Our schedule was a bit wonky due to PBIS presentations, drills (fire, tornado, lockdown, evacuation), and the end-of-the-first-week PBIS celebration. We saw our kids 3 times, which gave us the time to talk expectations, familiarize students with our learning space (pictures coming soon!), and begin building our classroom communities. 

Friday hit and Jenny and I sat down to plan the upcoming week. When we looked at the document we created that outlined a general schedule for this workshop model, we realized we need to keep that schedule fluid and flexible. We may not hit each item each day, and that’s okay. What we want to make sure we are doing each day is including all four pieces of the Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR) model. After an AMAZING professional development conference with Doug Fisher, this has become a big focus for us. We are also working on incorporating the activities from The First 20 Days from Fisher as well. 

The downside to this? We’re not sure how this will affect our tempo/pacing, or what we’ll get through in one day. We planned out Monday and Tuesday, and figured that before we plan our entire week, we need to get a feel for what our students need as far as time is concerned. Slowly, we are beginning to wade into the workshop pool this next week. There are a few goals we have for the week: getting a formal writing sample, set up reader’s and writer’s notebooks, History of a Reader writing mini-project, introduce the elements of a short story, and start dabbling in identifying a theme by using poetry. Then, we’ll begin welcoming students into our lovely dystopian world through short stories before we launch our book club unit. 

It’s definitely easy to feel overwhelmed at this point. I think I said to Jenny on Friday, “My head is going to explode.” And that is a feeling I don’t anticipate going away completely. Not only are we going on this workshop journey, we have some new expectations from our school district, along with getting used to the Teacher Effectiveness Project for teacher evaluation and all the documentation that goes along with that. The good news is we’re not alone in our endeavors, we have amazingly supportive administration, and our literacy coach is phenomenal. Without the support we have, this would be a much scarier undertaking.

Our kids are great, the year is off to a wonderful start, and football is back. What more could you ask for? 


PS – Go Pack Go!!

June 10th! June 10th!

June 10th is the date we’ve been waiting for. The “official” start to summer (well, for Jenny that is…mine started June 7th), which also means the official start to planning the next school year. Our pow-wow date for our workshop info session is June 19. Elizabeth sent us the agenda, and it looks awesome. We are going to be walking away from this meeting with a wealth of information.

As awesome as that is, I know it will also most likely be a touch overwhelming. I’m the kind of person that gets overwhelmed fairly easily. Throw lots of new information at me, and boom. I’m mentally freaking out trying to figure out how to make sense of and organize the information. To help avoid that next week, my goal is going to be spending some time this week creating a binder so I can organize things right away. I’m envisioning sections for: reading, writing, assessment, records keeping, and scheduling.

Hopefully, having a place for things to go will help me be more effective and efficient. Then, I can use my processing time to start figuring out how this vision is going to work for us, instead of freaking out like this: “OMG SO MUCH INFO WHAT DO I DO???”

This next week will also be my time to figure out what I want to include in my new classroom. I know that I want to re-vamp my reading wall. I had this awesome “Where in the World Will Reading Take You” thing with a world map and books set in various countries, but that’s changing. I want to be able to showcase my reading AND my students’ reading. I’m thinking something along the lines of a this-is-what-I’m-reading/have read place where kids can then post their reading and quick reviews.

As much as I love reading, I also want to incorporate more writing things into my classroom theme. This means I need to be writing more, and sharing what I’m writing more (which is definitely intimidating for me!) to help build that writer’s community. I’m not sure how I want to accomplish that yet.

Other things on the list to re-vamp: classroom arrangement (I’m ADD with desk arrangements), physical grade book, align units with Curriculum Companion (more on this later), new bulletin board ideas, classroom library book check-out system. And there will undoubtedly be more added to that list.

The great thing about summer? Everything can be done barefoot, in the sunshine (if it ever decides to come out), with a glass of wine in hand. Glorious.


Gathering of the Minds

As I sit here cowering during a storm, catching up on the Scripps National Spelling Bee semi-finals, my mind is swimming with information from our meeting with our awesome literacy coach this morning. Our goal for next year: implement reading and writing workshop in our classrooms. Our problem: finding resources to support workshop in the middle grades. We are so lucky to have Elizabeth (aforementioned literacy coach) helping us find materials and resources to go with our wacky – but oh so wonderful – plan.

We have a planning retreat day planned for June 19th. Our goals for that day will be: 

  • figure out structure – day to day and week to week
  • find resources and learn more about having successful conferences with students
  • determine what assessment (formative and summative) would look like
  • find or create a system for record keeping
  • start creating or deciding on rubrics

It’s a good starting point. Once we figure out the structure, other things fall into place. At least, that’s what I’m thinking and feeling right now. In August, we’ll be doing some more professional development on it. That means the end of June and July will be our time to hash everything out so that in August we can put the finishing touches on things.

This summer is going to be busy, but awesome. I am so excited to see what we will create and to see it in action in the fall! 

Off to root on the spellers (and continue the hunt for workshop resources)!