Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Taking a Break

I am sure it comes as no surprise that I will be taking a break from blogging. Our county has begun to implement a new curriculum that is taking up a great deal of time to figure out and manage. No more reading workshop for me, which is most unfortunate for my new crop of students. In addition, pregnancy is taking it's toll and between longer hours at work and real life, I just don't have the time or energy. I appreciate all of you for following my blog and caring about my ideas so much. Blogging has helped connect me to so many great teachers, and last year was my best year in teaching thanks to the encouragement I found in jumping into reading and writing workshop. Thank you for the support! I will hopefully get back into the blogging game after my leave is up. Until then, continue to spread the love of reading to your students!

Friday, August 16, 2013

I Got One!

I am so glad to say I can enter into this next school year knowing that I passed on a love of reading to at least ONE student. And, as any teacher will tell you, even if she is the only one, I will retire happily knowing I did my part. 

As I opened up my email to search for the dreaded "Welcome Back" email and schedule (you know what I am talking about...teaching is great, but summer is sweet), I found an email written to me from one of my students from the past school year. It made me smile, and it took away the sting that accompanies the end of yet another restful summer break. She wrote:

"Hey, Mrs.Posey it is _________ ________! I was wondering how u have been. I hope u r doing well. I also wanted to tell u that I have continued to read Harry Potter. I am on book number 5! I now have all the books, plus Hermonie's replica wand. My room is filled up with Harry potter posters everywhere. I even have a Hedwig stuffed animal. I also wanted to say I really miss u. You know how I told you my mom would never read Harry Potter, well guess what I got my mom hooked now.Since I got her so hooked she even got me all the movies! Well hope u had an awesome summer!

*smile returning*

This is the power of Reader's Workshop. This is the power of allowing students to have choice in their reading and education. This is a power that I fear is going to be taken away in the upcoming school years with curriculum changes...but that's for another post. For now, I am going to hang on to the fact that all of my research, hard work, and stress of the past school year really did pay off :)

Tell me about a time you knew you had made an impact on a student in the comments below!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Little Owl on the Way!

Since my last post, I have been wrapped up with a very exciting life event...

I'm going to be a mommy! 

My husband and I are so excited. Unfortunately, I really struggled with "morning" (should be called "all day") sickness. This made it difficult to do much else besides go to work and make it through the day. Now that I am WELL into my second trimester, I am feeling much better with more energy, so hopefully I'll be around a bit more. I have some great posts lined up of things I did during the second half of the year that I didn't get to share due to the little one in my tummy making things a bit difficult. Thank you to those of you who have stuck with me. I'll also keep you posted on the baby!

Meet Baby P.!

It's a boy!!!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Grading Gripes

Whenever I tell people of my adventure into Reader's Workshop, I often feel like I am defending my choices rather than just sharing teaching strategies and techniques. The most common question (and usually one of the first three) that makes me feel like I am justifying my methods is: "But, what do you GRADE?" Never mind how much my students are growing and learning as readers and writers...

It makes me sad that education has been reduced to the first five letters of the alphabet (six if your district gives out "Fs"). I am more concerned about giving my kids meaningful feedback, rather than assigning their work points based on my own opinion. I recently started having my students grade some of their own writing, specifically their writing journals. After I gave them the power, I began noticing improvements. Students weren't comfortable giving themselves full credit when they knew they hadn't put in the effort to edit and "flex their writing muscles." I love this new method so much, that I am going to use it more often for class work, specifically with assignments that are of a subjective nature (writing pieces, response journal entries, written responses to reading, etc.). This way, we can have a discussion about their work, with them putting forth enough effort to prove they deserve they grade they have given themselves. I may be so bold as to have students create a portfolio of their best work and come up with their quarterly grades, as suggested by Joe Bower on his blog (click here for a list of his blog posts related to abolishing grades.). 

The only question is: will this be supported or seen and too radical? I am not a parent, so I can't speak for those who have children. However, logic tells me that most parents would rather a teacher spend his or her time guiding students, planning quality lessons, and providing feedback kids can use to actually improve upon their learning (a percentage and a smiley face do not good feedback make). But when I spend hours per evening as an intermediate reading and writing teacher grading close to 50 written responses multiple times a week, it's hard to do all three of those things and feel like I am doing them all well. If more teachers opposed the idea of grades and embraced the idea of feedback, would that help bring about the change we are anxiously awaiting for in education? What do you think?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Spreading the Word About Reader's Workshop

This week I had the great fortune (I can say that now that it's done) to host a "fishbowl" observation for two days in my reading and writing classroom. Several teachers from another school in the county were interested in seeing how I implement Reader's Workshop in a county that has been using the same anthology for over a decade (that's a whole other blog post). Although I was hesitant (who likes being watched all day for two days straight?), I obliged for the good of the children. I figured, the more educators who embrace this individualized style of teaching, the better! 

It all started when a handful of teachers from my school, along with myself, went to their school to see Debbie Miller teach a model reading lesson (side note: I was in teacher heaven). During our debriefing session with Debbie, we discussed why she did what she did and where she would go next. Many of the teachers seemed to have a hard time understanding how they could apply this very foreign teaching style and still meet the requirements set forth by our district. When one of my colleagues chimed in that I was already implementing reading workshop, the questions began to be directed at me. "So, your kids are all reading different books?" and "How do you know they understand what they are reading?" were just a couple of inquiries. And thus, the idea to come to our school and see it all in the flesh was born.

I am by no means an expert. I am continually refining my strategies in reading workshop to align with my personal teaching beliefs. My students are used to this, and they know that at any given moment, Mrs. P. could (and probably will) change her mind if something "just isn't working." I am so thankful to have the flexibility to do this, and that privilege comes from having a supportive administration that allows me to do what I know is best for my students. And this is exactly what I told my visitors. Reading workshop is a work in progress, but I was happy to model and answer questions because I wish I had had someone in either my building or my district to go to when I began Reader's Workshop this year.

I began by pointing my visitors in the direction of great resources to begin gathering ideas and information (I don't know if I could have done it without the inspiration of Donalyn Miller, Debbie Miller, Fountas and Pinnell, "The Two Sisters," and Franki Sibberson). I told them about Twitter and blogging. We chatted about the power of quality graphic novels (I got some sideways looks on that one at first) and staying current with the latest and greatest in children's literature. I showed them how I record my observations and assess my students daily. We talked about what gets graded, what doesn't, and why. I explained how we practice skills repeatedly before I assess whether or not they have been "mastered," and even when they have they are revisited constantly. I showed them my binder that I would be lost without, my students' notebooks, and that you really can teach a lot in 15 minutes. The listened in on our read aloud, one-on-one conferences, guided reading groups, and reteach lessons. And when they reluctantly walked up to me to ask a question (or 12), I smiled and told them I was there to help and give as much support as I could in my own rookie way.

When all was said and done, my principal and fellow coworkers told me what they had heard through the grapevine: those visiting teachers were excited about potentially starting reading workshop at their own school. As soon as I heard that, all the stress, all the anxiety of being center stage, all the questioning about why I had to put myself through it was worth it. If even one teacher in another school begins teaching Reader's Workshop, I will feel like I had a real impact. I sincerely hope that the power students making choices about what they read and how they learn spreads (and FAST) through our district. The kids need it.