Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Got Grit?

We have been reading articles and picture books as well as viewing various videos that deal with the theme of GRIT. Grit is basically giving it your all and not giving up in the face of obstacles. It is about working hard to achieve your goals. I want students to have a “gritty attitude” so that they meet life’s challenges with courage, determination and perseverance. This also applies to the challenges of learning that they face in the classroom. Grit is a life skill that will serve them well as they continue  their academic journey, all the way through to adulthood. 

My plan is to use this theme as a stepping-stone for an inquiry into citizenship and human rights that will take place in January.

Below is a sampling of some of our frontloading experiences:

Students were given several words and were asked to define them. Together they had to discuss what they all had in common. In the end, students discovered that all of these words are related to one another and deal with GRIT.

Various books with the underlying theme of grit were read aloud to students. Here, they used the strategy “stop and jot” to record thinking on post-its.

We watched several videos or short clips on youtube that dealt with grit. Angela Duckworth's Ted Talk - Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance is excellent.

We recorded our findings about grit (from books and videos) in our notebooks:

Students interviewed a parent to learn about how they used grit in their lives. This experience was very valuable. We included our families on the discussion and students got to hear a variety of stories that added to their understanding of grit.

I wrote about a "grit moment" from my own life:

Students analyzed articles about people who worked through difficult times or worked hard in order to achieve success in their lives. The example below is a response after reading an article about the NHL player, Mark Scheifele, who plays for the Winnipeg Jets.

We generated a list of criteria for students to use in their own written pieces on grit.

While all of these experiences were taking place, we were also focusing on what great writers do. I decided to teach students a "craft move" that we have called Action Clues. This technique slows down your story, builds tension and allows the reader to feel the emotion.

I revised my piece to make it more interesting for the reader. I originally had a bit of this already with the line - "Right near the end, at about mile 12, my legs were blocks of cement and I felt numb." I wanted to extend this feeling and give more clues for the reader. So I added - "My body ached and sweat dripped into my eyes. I felt dizzy with exhaustion. My head was heavy and I wasn't sure if I could do it."

We also looked at this craft move in different texts. I like to use short passages from novels as well as picture books. This allows students to see a technique modelled multiple times in literature. Here is an example below:

"Jerry sat on his bed and I could tell that he was losing his fight to not cry. Tears were popping out of his eyes and slipping down his cheeks." (Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis)

Students also experimented with this technique in their notebooks. They took a plain sentence and turned it into something interesting for the reader:

"Terry jumped up and down. His brain was filled with questions. His heart was pumping fast, his eyebrows were raised and his eyes lit up because it was the final game in the hockey tournament."

With all of this intentional front-loading, students were ready to write about their own "gritty" moment. 

Here is one student's draft:

I am so proud of my students' writing. Frontloading, writing with a purpose, using topics that interest students, being authentic and consistently discussing what good writers do all help pave the way for successful writing!
Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Back in the Classroom for 2017-2018

I am THRILLED that I have decided to return to the classroom full time. I've been in administration (vice principal) for the past couple of years. It was interesting to say the least. I am grateful to have been given the opportunity and the experience...but there is nothing like being the captain of your own classroom. My love is instruction - creating, thinking, learning and working with students to be their best. Although administration involves instructional leadership, I found that it was only a small part of the administrative portfolio. The management of facilities and of course people take up the majority of your time. Goodbye administration! Hello TEACHING!

This year I plan to spend a great deal of time talking about WORDS. This may even be a year-long theme. The quote on one of our bulletin boards pretty much sums up my thinking:

This quote will be the starting point for students to add their thinking in this space. Students will think of their own word that they feel is important and that they want to try to practice in their own lives. They will also find a quote that connects with their word. 

We will be discussing how words can have great impact. We'll be looking at specific words - kindness, integrity, courage, grit, resilience and more. Using a wonderful book called...wait for it...WORDS by Lora Rozler (pictured below), a lovely message will be discovered. I can just imagine the different ways we can discuss this text.

I also have decided to create a "BE" bulletin board. This idea is all over Pinterest. It's quite popular and definitely looks pretty. However, the potential for students to discuss the various words is phenomenal. We can share why certain words are important, the ways we can practice them and how we can use them to help us in life. The possibilities are endless. I can't wait! 

Friday, 28 March 2014

Assessing Our Writing Part 2

Students have finally finished recording their slides in the Explain Everything App. I've shared the overall lesson here. I am very impressed with their ability to pick out favourite lines and explain their significance. They are truly thinking of their reader and they are thinking critically about their own writing.

Here is a sample of one group's script (see below). The script was just to help them with transitions and give them a structure before recording their voices.

Below are two examples of our Explain Everything projects:

To view more of these projects click here.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Assessing Our Writing Part 1

Explain Everything is the perfect tool to capture students' thinking. I wanted students to assess their dream writing by taking photographs of their work, pointing to specific areas of craft and explaining their importance. However, I needed to make sure students were prepared before using this app. The main priority was for  students to organize their thinking.
Students worked in small groups sharing their writing with one another. They created notes about specific craft techniques they noticed. I was really pushing them to move beyond the typical comment, "I like this line because it is descriptive". I told them to dig deep and think about what made a particular line in their story special for the reader. Of course, I want them to name the craft they see in writing. More importantly, I want them to be able to explain its significance for the reader. 

Here is a line selected by a student from their writing: "When dreams get caught in your hair you have to brush them out." This line shows that there's always little bumps and that's normal. Just brush off the dust and keep on going.

I like the line - "When you skate down the ice you feel like a bird drifting through the sky". It is a simile. It lets the reader know that you have to skate hard in hockey.

The next step was for students to use the iPads. They took pictures of their writing and created slides. They had to decide if they were going to take one or two photographs of their work. They learned how to crop, resize and lock an image. They added arrows pointing to specific features and are currently working on adding text boxes. This is where their notes will come in handy. 

The final step will be for students to work on a script for their voice recording. I want them to be clear and organized. You can grab a copy of the script here.

I hope to post some examples soon! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Ready to Write

We have read several books and articles about success and achievement. We have watched, shared and discussed many stories of people who have overcome obstacles to achieve success in their lives. These experiences have given students the language and insight to begin writing about their own dreams. 

We set criteria together as a class (see below). Organization, craft and voice were featured in our guidelines. You will also notice that I am using language that students understand ("stretching toffee"). Students visualize a piece of toffee getting stretched or pulled. This helps them understand the idea of elaboration or providing detailed examples to make their writing interesting for the reader.
Students are also aware of what they can already do in their writing. A bulletin board of "I Can Statements" reminds students of what good writers do. These statements grow over the course of the year as students acquire new skills. It's a great assessment tool or reference for students to use when they are drafting a piece of writing. These statements helped us create the criteria mentioned above.

I am so thrilled with the quality of my students' writing! It is very sophisticated because of the front-loading and because of all of the hard work we've been doing with leads, voice, vivid words, using one's senses, etc. 

In the end, we will be compiling all of our writing into a picture book, which students have planned to give to the Children's Hospital. They want their writing to inspire others and make them feel hopeful. 

I feel this writing project has been so successful! Students were invested in their work right from the start because they knew their thinking would be shared with a larger audience - beyond our school walls. Also, the topic is so very important to them - everyone has dreams! Just look at the sincerity in the examples featured below.

Sample One (Gr. 4):

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Sample 2 (Gr. 4):

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Sample 3 (Gr. 5):

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