Saturday, June 25, 2011


Another really fun website entered my life about a month ago: Pinterest!!! It is a great way to keep all of those creative ideas you find on the internet neat and orderly and categorized. Let's say you're on-line, perusing ideas for the new school year, and you come across an amazing game or a photo of a fabulous classroom library or a cute craft to celebrate a holiday. You click on the "Pin It" icon (which you have downloaded from the Pinterest website), and select the photo of the item you want to save or remember. A little box pops up, prompting you to categorize your pin (in this case, "Classroom Ideas") and jot a brief description of the item. Once you go back to the Pinterest homepage, you'll have all of your favorite things organized in fantastic little visual representation.

My favorite part of Pinterest, though, is stealing repinning other people's pins. You can start "following" people you know (or random internet strangers who share your interests), see what they're pinning, and then repin the items you like. I love looking for home decorating inspiration, kid craft ideas, methods to organize my life, cool haircuts and styles, and so much more. One can definitely become a teensy bit obsessed with this (ahem). anyone else pinning? I am always interested in checking out other pin boards. You can see mine (and follow me if you'd like) HERE.

I Heart Google Reader!

Why didn't I know about Google Reader before? For the last couple of years, I've been visiting my favorite teacher blogs, home decorating blogs, kid craft blogs, fashion blogs, etc. via my bookmarks. It was pretty time-consuming to check for new and exciting content of all of the fabulous blogs in internet-land. My bookmarks were organized by category but seemed unwieldy and inefficient and cluttered, which I strongly dislike!

So....Google Reader entered my life yesterday. I subscribed to all of my favorite blogs (I am slightly ashamed to be following 72 blogs as of the moment...and I am always looking for more good stuff! I promise that I don't neglect my family!), and now all I have to do is click on my little Google Reader tab, and see who has updated their blogs. I receive all the new content in a simple and very manageable feed.

Oh, and I almost forgot the most amazing feature: there is a search box that you can use in Google Reader to hone in on a specific post or term, even if you don't remember which of your 72 blogs it originally came from! For example, Let's say that Halloween is right around the corner and I am looking for a fun, festive idea to celebrate. Type "Halloween" into the search box, and voila...every blog post with the word "Halloween" in it, pops up. You can then chose your fave. Isn't that great? And so very efficient? Those Google people are so smart.

I can't believe I just discovered this yesterday!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Workshop Approach to Math, Too!

For the past several years, I have taken a "workshop" approach to teaching both reading and writing. It only made sense that eventually, I would turn to a math workshop model, too! Last year was my first attempt at math workshop, and wow. I loved it, the kids loved it, and my instruction was individually tailored to meet the needs of all students. Here's what math workshop looks like:

Students were divided into 3 groups based on their chapter pretest (10 questions quick check to assess background knowledge). Every day, the procedure would be the same:

I instruct the whole group (14 students) and provide a 10 minute mini-lessons on the day's essential question/concept/skill. Next students get into their groups:
          Group 1: Sit with me at the back table, while I spend more time "reteaching" or practicing mini-lesson
          Group 2: Play a group/partner game based on the mini-lesson
          Group 3: Independently complete a worksheet/book pages based on the mini-lesson
Students spend about 12 minutes working on their assigned activity (me, game, or independent work). When the timer goes off, Group 1 goes to games, Group 2 goes to independent work, and Group 3 comes to me. Spend 12 minutes in that rotation, timer goes off, and do the switcheroo one more time. Group 1 goes to independent work, Group 2 comes to me, and Group 3 goes to games.

It's very important that students understand that in order for this approach to work the way it's intended to work, we must monitor our own behavior and practice the "right" way to do math workshop. It's a great way for math to be interactive and differentiated!

Students fully engaged in math-related games and activities:

A Workshop Approach to Reading and Writing

A reader and writer since the time I can remember, I hope to share my enthusiasm for reading and writing with my students. I like to take a "workshop" approach to teaching because it encourages responsibility, independence, and I also get time to meet with each reader and writer regularly - both individually and in strategy-based groups. Here's what each workshop period might look like in a typical day:

Reader's Workshop Example -
Part I:
Mini-Lesson Focus: Retelling a Story (Comprehension)
Read Aloud: Garden of Abdul Gasazi by Chris Van Allsburg
Explain and discuss how to retell a story. Students read independently while practicing the strategy that I just taught. I will conference with 5-6 students, discussing their reading and the strategies they are using to better comprehend. We will discuss strengths and a reading goal. After about 20 minutes, we will gather to share examples of how students used the strategy of retelling a story.

Part II:
Mini-Lesson Focus: Attending to Punctuation While Reading Aloud (Fluency)
Read Aloud: When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant
Students will work in stations chosen by them in the morning. Some will be working on the strategy I just taught (reading to someone), some will be practicing word study skills, some will be listening to reading (on a CD player), and some will be in a reading strategy group with me. After about 15 minutes, we will gather to share examples of how students used the strategy of attending to punctuation while reading aloud. Some students may volunteer to practice this strategy while reading aloud.

Writer's Workshop Example -
Mini-Lesson Focus: Discovering Small Moments
Read Aloud: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Explain that authors usually start with a big "watermelon" idea (family vacation weekend in Orlando), and then focus in on a small "seed" idea inside that watermelon (being "slimed" at the Nick Hotel) to be their writing topic. Students will talk, discuss, and list some watermelon ideas. Then, they should choose some seed ideas within their watermelon ideas. They may start to write a narrative based on the seed idea. During this time, I will be conferencing with writers to see if they are on the right track. After about 30 minutes, a couple of writers will share their seed idea and the beginning of their narrative.

Students fully engaged in reading: