Saturday, May 30, 2015

OLW - responsiveness ...the 6-month mark

I wrote the words below in BLACK as the 2015 year began, my first New Years Day of choosing a OLW. As I reflect on my ONE LITTLE WORD now, I celebrate that I STILL have 6 months to go (good thing!). 

I have focused on my responses to things. As I speak/react to students and colleagues, I now hear inside my head, a voice saying "Is this the best response?" 

I have NOT spent time actively learning about how to respond. But the year is only half-way over and the summer break is just 20 days, 4 hours, 41 minutes and 41 seconds away (YES, I have a count-down app on my phone!) My plan is to READ, READ, READ lots of Responsive Classroom literature. And my school is offering an August training that I will attend, too.

I chose this word because I was realizing I was bothered more and more by others. However, now I also realize that the amount of sleep and exercise and healthy foods I eat really are directly related to my reactions. So along with reading, I am also going to actively spend more time focusing on ME - my diet, my time spent moving my body, my stress level. When I am more relaxed, I find I am capable of reacting in a more calm manner.

I really do WANT to observe myself living more the below list of synonyms. I really do want to respond better to boy behavior, to colleagues suggesting a different ideas, to situations causing drama in my own life.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson reminds me that it really isn't OK to keep waiting to act kindly. So many missed opportunities slip by. Instead, I CAN respond with kindness, openness, acceptance. 

I WILL SHOW the 6 month mark and beyond.

Copied below is my January 1, 2015 blog post:

OLW - responsiveness

As the 2015 year begins, I want to focus on my response to things. I want to spend time actively learning how to better respond to:

~ 10 year old boys
~ colleagues, thoughtful, arrogant, and/or ignorant
~ the drama of school and family situations
~ the lack of kindness shown by strangers I pass during the day
~ anyone causing me angst

As this year ends, I realize more and more, I get very bothered by others. And I respond by either just walking away and not saying or doing anything OR by yelling (as in the case of 10 year old boys who do much to drive me crazy by Friday afternoon - yes, I am a 5th grade teacher). By keeping the word RESPONSIVENESS front and center, I hope to read more and observe more and try more about ways to respond to others.

One of the definitions of RESPONSIVE is related to machinery - "the ability of a machine or system to adjust quickly to suddenly alterned external conditions, as of speed, load, or temperature and to resume stable operation without undue delay." Synonyms listed include openness, acceptance, broad-minded, observance, receptiveness, tolerant, understanding, aware, kind-hearted, sensible, warm.

My goal of keeping RESPONSIVENESS as a focus is that my responses will be positive and that quickly I can adjust to resume operation without too much delay. Presently, I respond by being annoyed. I respond by thinking an hour later about what I could have said. I respond by turning inward and letting it go and maybe tolerating too much.

Professionally, I plan to read more about Responsive Classroom. I plan to reflect weekly on my own responses. I plan to also be accepting of the speed (whether slow or quick) of my growth.

I know this is an area I CAN be better at through practice and constant reflection. I openly accept RESPONSIVENESS as my OLW for the 2015 year.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

End of Year Letter to my 5th grade Writers

June, 2015
Dear Janney 5th Grade Writing Friends,
As we end our year together, we just want to take a moment to reflect on a few things we learned with you this year. Our favorite part of being your writing teachers was the many genres we were able to write – personal narrative, realistic fiction, essay, nonfiction history, nonfiction science, memoir and poetry. We will never forget the following moments that helped us to be better writers:
·      Using these mentor texts to inspire our writing:

·      Watching these videos to inspire our writing:
o   Video of Lucy Calkins -
§  We learned that we must honor our writing by reading it like it is gold and listening to it because it can change the world.
§  We learned that the word choices we make in our writing can change the way people react to our writing.
o   Scene from Apollo 13 -
§  We learned the importance of following a checklist to make our writing soar, just like the Apollo 13 crew followed their checklist to get the rocket to soar into space.
o   Scene from The Wizard of Oz
§  We learned that writing can make us feel like Dorothy, “...not in Kansas anymore”!
·      Meeting these professional writers who inspired us to keep writing:
o   George O’Connor
o   Gail Carson Levine
·      Using these tools when writing:
o   Our writing notebook and computer
o   Orally rehearsing our writing ideas
o   The Slice of Life writing challenge in March

As this 5th grade school year ends, know that we are so proud of you. We saw you grow as a writer, while also growing as readers, mathematicians, scientists, historians and as kind friends in our community. Enjoy your summer. Take some time to read and write! Be sure to complete the writing process - immersion, generate ideas, draft, revise, edit and publish - often; this summer, next year in Middle School, in High School, in College and in your life-work. Through writing, we come to understand our thinking and when we make our writing public, WE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD!

Mrs. Donnelly and Ms. Osterman

PS – Do stay in touch ...especially in 7 years, we’d love to hear where you are heading after finishing High School - and feel free to send me your school’s pennant to add to my wall collection! 

CLICK HERE to view letter I sent last year to my 4th graders.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Judith Viorst Visits My School

I can vividly recall reading Alexander and the Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day to my first class in the fall of 1986, me fresh out of college. The book plate is further evidence from that time, as it reads "Sally Stallings". In another year,  I'd married and start being called Mrs. Donnelly. That year and every year since, this book lived in my classroom. On May 6, 2015, the author Judith Viorst visited my classroom and now this very worn book is signed by this amazing author!

What a fun day we had!! She came so prepared with written notes to guide her talk that shared highlights of her long writing life. Then she graciously took questions from the students. After her 45 minutes with the 5th graders, the audience switched and she repeated with the 4th graders, which included her grandson, Isaac, son of her son, Alexander.

Some highlights:
* Her granddaughter, Olivia (Isaac's 8th grade sister) gave her the idea for her newest book And Too Boys Booed. When Judy asked Olivia how her talent show performance went, she replied "Terrible - two boys booed."  Judy told us that she probably should have said something comforting to Olivia but instead, she said, "That's a great idea for a book!" Then she read parts of this book to us. If you haven't read this new adventure yet, do!! 
* Her Advise for Writers:
1) You need to write EVERYDAY...a little something every day
2) FINISH what you start. "This is a good rule in writing and other things, too."
3)Writing is partly fun and partly hard. Enjoy the fun and don't give up when it gets hard.
4) The real name for a writer SHOULD BE "rewriter" because that is really what a writer spends MOST of their time doing. It is only after many, many tries that a basketball player can finally get the ball to go "swish". The same is true for writing. Write and rewrite and when it feels like "swish", you know you have written it right.
5) Be a reader so you know what you can write about and know all the ways that you can tell a story.

* Her Writing Life Now
1)A new volume of children's poetry will come out in 2016 - What are mad about? What are you glad about? For this volume, she used children consultants (including her grandkids) to read the poems and give her feedback.
2) She is working on a 4th Lulu book. "I think Lulu is based on the secret, naughty part in all of us! I like naughty characters. I also don't like people who are too perfect. Growing up, she knew a girl who was so perfect named Ethel Ann. She would call her "soap" because she was so pure and clean. Her mother would tell her "Why can't you be more like Ethel Ann? I see Lulu as the Anti-Ethel Ann. "
(I will admit that did not know this character or book series. After the presentation, I read-aloud from Lulu and the Brontosaurus. WOW! I'm hooked. I will be reading #2 and #3 and awaiting the 4th being written now!)

As she was leaving, she saw a poster in my room that I made for National Poetry Month. I wrote on it: Read a Poem  / Write a Poem

She told me I should add Recite a poem. "It is powerful to have a poem live inside you that you can recite."

Of course, I took her advise and change the sign and I will push recitation of poetry. 
Besides, poems are to be HEARD and not just read!

A final plus to this author visit was that my own mother turned 80 on May 6th. Because she lives in the area, I had her drive over to be in my classroom for the presentation!! I had purchased Judy's volume of poetry, Unexpectedly Eighty and other Adaptations and Judy graciously signed it "Happy Birthday, Mary Anne"!
(If you don't know of her adult poetry volumes, look for them! I bought Fabulously Fifty for me and Suddenly Sixty for my sister-in-law. I asked her as I walked her out if she is working on a Ninety volume. She said, not yet.

Judith Viorst is 84 and lives in Washington DC with her husband Milton Viorst. Her Alexander Book has sold 4 million copies. She has written a total of 41 books, 3 coming out last year.

Judith Viorst - SO INSPIRING!!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Poetry inspired by Judith Viorst

I say I value mentor authors but the Writing Workshop I ran on Wednesday solidified this belief. It resulted in such strong writing after I immersed the students in the poetry of mentor author, Judith Viorst.

First, I am over-the-top excited about having poet and writer, Judith Viorst, visit my classroom on May 6th to speak to my 5th grade writers. She is also the grandmother to two students in our school and lives in our neighborhood, making it easier for her to visit.
(Next Tuesday's post, I will share about her visit!)

Naturally, I wanted to prepare my students to meet this author. So, I had each of my four classes during Writing Workshop read three of her poems, talk to a partner about each poem and then quickly draft our own poems. First, I shared If I Were in Charge of the World, having the class choral read it, stanza by stanza. Then we shared with a partner what we liked about it. We then looked closely at the structure. Immediately, we did a quick draft of our own poem.
And after just a few minutes, we showed our partner our draft.

Then we repeated with What Dads Do:

  and finally, with Learning:
We ended our 50 minute class period having drafted three strong poems and having picked the one we will revise, edit and publish the next day.

As a perk, I bought fancy paper for them to put their published poem on. As the students left class on Wed, all seemed very motivated to return on Thursday to revise, edit and publish one poem in the spirit of Judith Viorst on the fancy paper. Now she will walk into our classroom on May 6th and see all their poems, inspired by her, lining the walls.

As the kids wrote, I gave it a try, too.

If I Were in Charge of the World by Sally Donnelly, inspired by Judith Viorst
(Click HERE to read Judith Viorst's poem)

If I were in charge of the world,
I'd cancel grits,
alarm clocks, multiple-meeting in one day
and lengthy report card comments.

If I were in charge of the world,
there'd be free round-trip airline tickets for me to the cities where my children live,
lawn service would be provided for free with my rental house
And bathrooms would magically stay clean 24/7.

If I were in charge of the world,
You wouldn't have earthquakes.
You wouldn't have riots.
You wouldn't have cancers,
or at least, not childhood cancers.

If I were in charge of the world,
a person who loved to read, could read all day long
And a person who loved to write, could write  all day long
And a person who was late for a meeting because they were reading and/or writing
could still be in charge of the world.

What Dads Do by Sally Donnelly, inspired by Judith Viorst
(Click HERE to read Judith Viorst's poem)

Throws parties
Makes people laugh
Creates good times for all
Signs his signature in the fanciest way
Draws amazing illustrations for your school book report
Buys you just the present that you need
Visits you when you are away at college
Treats you and your friends to strawberry daiquiris.
Dads work hard,
play hard
and laugh big.
I wish I still had one.

Learning by Sally Donnelly, inspired by Judith Viorst
(Click HERE to read Judith Viorst poem)

I'm learning that I know that 1+1=2
and I'm learning that just writing 2 is no longer enough.
I now have to explain why it is 2, using words
or the math teacher will say, "Explain your thinking."

I'm learning it is hard not to shut down when I can't put it into words
And want to just say, "because 2 is the answer."
I'm learning it is hard to not argue and say, "You're wrong"
when a classmate says a different answer and my math teacher suggests I listen to understand the logic of their answer.
I'm learning it is getting easier through practice to say my answer using words
and to accept or refute my classmate's answers.

I'm learning that just writing 1+1=2
is not enough anymore,
Because I'm learning that the explanation of my thinking using words
is NOW the right answer.