Have a great holiday, everyone.
I always had a great time playing with words as a kid, so I experienced fond memories of my childhood this week-end, creating a new teacher-model page in my writer's notebook. As you probably know if you follow my work, each month I challenge my Gifted & Talented students (I have quite a few this year) and all other students who may be interested in with a special GT Writer's Notebook Challenge of the Month.
My students know how to find my website, and they know where I store these monthly challenges. They also know that each month I place the "mentor text" that inspired the lesson near my desk, and they can look through the book any time. At the end of the month, students who independently have completed the challenge show it to me for extra credit points and a prize (a comic book or a smencil is what I've offered to them this year).
We were talking about anagrams earlier this month, inspired by the fact that my eighth graders are reading Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam, Jr., and that the movie version of the book is called October Sky--which is an anagram of the original title. Anyway, my kids became really excited about the notion of making anagrams for their own names and for the names of friends.
I thought anagrams might be an interesting challenge for the next writer's notebook challenge. After searching for mentor texts on the topic, I discovered a new author/cartoonist: Jon Agee. He has books on oxymorons, palindromes, and anagrams! Last week, my new mentor text on anagrams--Elvis Lives! and Other Anagrams came in the mail, and my students went crazy over it.
My seventh graders have just begun work on their first big cross-curricular project for 2012. On the evening of January 18, they will be hosting a carnival for their parents, peers, and community judges. After studying how probability can be applied to population statistics in social studies, they will design science-topic-inspired carnival games that explain to participants' their probability of winning or losing each game. It will be an evening of science games with probability and prizes!
To accompany their games and set a further carnival mood, the students will also be designing cardboard cut-outs (like this one), where attendees can stick their head through a hole and be photographed as an interesting character from the Steinbeck novels we have been reading and discussing: The Pearl, The Red Pony, and Tortilla Flat.
Next week, we begin writing the character analysis essays that will inspire the cardboard character cut-outs! The "Mr. Stick Metaphor of the Week" they'll see Monday is designed to be thematic for the project that is about to unfold.
In September, we had discussed the story of Theseus and the 12 other Athenian youths who were sent to the labyrinth in Crete as food for the Minotaur; made some great comparisons between this myth and The Hunger Games, which many of my students had read over the summer. In the original myth, Princess Ariadne (who was actually the Minotaur's sister) sneaks Theseus a ball of twine, which helps him escape--not unlike the parachutes that fall into the arena to help Katniss.
Anyway, the metaphor of the week, which the students will see tomorrow, is an allusion back to that story. I'm finding Mr. Stick's Metaphor of the Week a great way to remind students of stories and poems we had read much earlier in the year.
I have five separate literature circles going on among my students this month and going up to winter break. All students will be writing a character analysis essay based on one dynamic and one static character from the novel they are reading in these literature circles.
This week's metaphor (which they'll see tomorrow morning) is a reminder of the terms dynamic and static characters. Enjoy!
Posted in Labels: Reading Workshop Materials ; Skillfully Using Mentor Texts
...that are going on in my classroom this November...AND I AM LOVING THE PROCESS OF ADAPTING OTHERS' IDEAS FOR MY OWN CLASSROOM. Thought I'd share, if you're interested. I plan to blog this entire experience, which will ultimately lead to a new resource page at my website (launching in February!) on how I am using and integrating a "Reading Workshop" model.
Again...still catching up on BLOG postings because of my wife's surgery earlier this month. While I was out with her during recuperation, my students received their report cards.
As a kid, I used to hate not knowing what grade I had earned until the day we received that piece of paper. I made sure I planned a few lessons that allowed me to call each kid up to my desk a week before grades were due from me so that my kiddos knew exactly why they received what they received as a mark. No surprises in my classroom!
As each kid talked to me, I asked, "What does this grade tell you that you need to do for the remaining nine weeks of our semester?" And when they answered, I asked, "So if that advice you just gave yourself was a 'road sign,' what would it read?" I loved the answers they gave; some very literal; others very creative.
So...this has been my metaphor of the week for this past week. I think we'll be doing some more road sign metaphors over the next few weeks to remind them to stay the course.
|Check out all my "Mr. Stick Metaphors of the week" by clicking here.|
Posted in Labels: Focusing on Writing Skills (more than on an end product)
Been catching up on posting pictures from my classroom; my wife had back surgery earlier this month (thanks for all the good wishes, friends), and I have many digital shots on my camera but haven't had time to upload!
My student aide helped me a few weeks back change the Trait of the Month bulletin board to ORGANIZATION. Our state writing test is certainly looming (February), so all my students are going to be working on two things: 1) designing their own advance/graphic organizers for both expository and persuasive writing tasks and 2) creating thorough and sensible paragraphs. Because we lose so much instructional time in November & December, this TRAIT will be our focus for both those months.
|Order Trait Bulletin Board Materials from Amazon. Find student samples at WritingFix!|
For those of you using our Writer's Notebook Bingo Cards, you know our "center square lesson of the month" for October was our "Life is a Recipe" metaphors. My students each created a two-page spread in their notebooks; on the left-hand side, they created a personal recipe metaphor; on the right-hand side, they created--in my class--a science-related metaphor. As of November 1st, I began checking my students' notebooks for these two recipes, and I am astounded at the quality of thought many of my students gave me while competing this project.
Here, by the way, is my teacher example from my own notebook that I shared with them throughout this month-long writing process.
Since beginning this assignment, I even have a few students who have begun creating recipe metaphors beyond the two required recipes my assignment asked for. I look forward to seeing how these students' extra recipe metaphors will guide them to creating rough drafts for future assignments during upcoming writer's workshop time.
Below is 8th-grader, Alex's, two-page "recipe metaphor" spread; click on it to see it with more detail. If you click here, you can see several more great examples from my classroom of amazing students, as well as the whole assignment that inspired these samples!
With two major holidays, November and December strike me as more family-oriented months, which began my thinking as I decided on next week's "Mr. Stick Metaphor of the Week." We also had our first freeze this last week (so long, cherry tomatoes and basil plants!), and--add to all that--my wife is undergoing some pretty serious back surgery on Tuesday, which is going to make us both really reliant on both our mothers' care and attention as we recover from this over the next three or four weeks.
As I weighed these three influences Friday afternoon, our classroom metaphor of the week just kind of fell into place without much help. It was almost odd; I just kind of started writing it on the white board without thinking about what exactly I was writing. As I started sketching the picture, one of my students in the last period of the day on Friday (which is when I usually change the metaphor) said, "Oh, that's a really good one, Mr. Harrison."
And it is...Hats off to metaphors that just fall into place without much effort.
We're still working on our "Life is a Cookbook" pages in our writer's notebooks (since it's the "center square lesson on our October Bingo Card). In the last two weeks, I have photographed and added two student samples that did fun things--I thought--with "Mr. Stick," our writer's notebook "Margin Mascot." My goal is to post a sample every week from (hopefully) a different student so that by year's end, I have 30+ great Mr. Stick samples in the on-line gallery I have set up. Just having the page up and showing it to kids each week (plus awarding chosen students a special "Mr. Stick Badge" I created for my classroom Edmodo site) is proving to be a great motivator for my students.
Here is Sarah's personal recipe, which I posted last week:
We've successfully created our personal recipes in our writer's notebook and turned them in for an assessment today. Next week, in honor of Common Core Standards' Writing Across the Curriculum strand, my students are bringing to my language arts class their ideas for science-inspired recipes. Eventually, they'll all have a two-page recipe spread that resembles my teacher model.
To move those students brains towards their science recipes, I have dedicated next week's "Mr. Stick Metaphor" to the following metaphor:
I have a fifteen-minute "advisory period" every morning, where my 8th graders are supposed to organize themselves for the day before they head off to their first period. Our principal has--more or less--admitted that "advisory period" is in place to make sure our students who are regularly late to school don't miss any content in their real first period, which I think is a ridiculous reason to have this period.
But...I'm going to make lemonade with this lemon of an idea. I am gong to be giving my 8th graders an "interesting word of the day" during this block of time, and then challenge them to use the word of the day with their other teachers over the course of the school day.
Friday, we celebrated the mythological story of Sisyphus, and I introduced them to the word Sisyphean. They found the Mr. Stick sketch of Sisyphus so amusing that I decided to move him over to my "Metaphor of the Week" white board for Monday. Here is next week's "Metaphor of the Week!" based on Friday's "Interesting Word of the Day!" Enjoy!
This metaphor is inspired by a poem I shared the first week called "Fire" by Judith Brown, which has a nice message that we compared to WB Yeats' quote: "Education is not the filling of the pail but the lighting of the fire." I felt in week #7, we needed to remind ourselves of the discussion we had back during week #1:
|Inspire by Judith Brown's poem, Fire, and a W.B. Yeats' quote about education.|
Posted in Labels: Focusing on Writing Skills (more than on an end product)
I did switch my "Trait of the Month" Bulletin Board while my students worked in writer's workshop this week. We're following IDEA DEVELOPMENT with WORD CHOICE so that I can focus them on VOICE next month. Why? Because these are the three traits that work best together when teaching students to "Show more, and tell less."
I am figuring I will be offering my "metaphors of the week" to my students for the first ten weeks, then I will be taking nominations from my students for educationally-based metaphors. I'll probably set it up as some sort of competition, giving a prize to students who have their metaphors chosen. I will post them and provide a "Mr. Stick illustration" to make them laugh.
Anyway, here's my sixth metaphor for the year! Enjoy!
I have to give credit for next week's metaphor of the week to one of my blog followers--KCH--who shared some of her classroom metaphors. I totally "stole" the "Each day is a blank sheet of paper" metaphor as I go in to my fifth week of weekly metaphors. Below, you can find the sketch I made during my last period of the day today; my students (who were engrossed in their writer's workshop rough drafts) were fascinated with my process as I sketched and prepared the next week's metaphor. Several students stayed after class to explain how the metaphor-of-next-week was challenging their thinking already. WHAT A GREAT METAPHOR!!!
Forgot to bring my camera to school on Friday, so I am just now posting the "Metaphor of the Week" that we started using today.
Just an FYI about why this was my chosen metaphor: This week, our district's wisdom has dictated that all our students must be tested on a new on-line assessment tool in order to establish a baseline for several future testing days; the two tests (reading and math) students must take this week will take them between one and three hours to complete. Our school's computer lab is a slow-running, low-bandwidth nightmare. We lost almost an entire instructional day to test what turned out to be only a few kids who could actually end up being on the computers at the same time. During the last period of the day, my poor sixth graders were taking the test in a lab that had reached 85-90 degrees. Sigh....Knowing all this was going down last Friday, I thought "Life is a Multiple Choice Test" would be a perfect metaphor for the week, and that is why I posted it. One of my sixth graders read the metaphor off the board when she finally finished her test just before the final bell and remarked, "Oh man, I hope that's not really true!"
So...here is my metaphor of the week! Let's hope next week feels like I actually get to teach again.
I'm going to make it my personal "Friday Practice" to always sketch and photograph the next week's (Mr. Stick-inspired) Metaphor of the Week before I leave for the weekend.
We've spent the first week of school pre-writing and planning our writers' notebooks introductory pages. My sixth graders are working on a page dedicated to their personal treasures; my seventh and eighth graders are creating showing riddles, inspired by WritingFix's Lesson of the Month for September. Can't even begin to tell you how much easier it is to inspire my kids because I can show them my teacher-model of a writer's notebook page before I send them into the pre-writing process.
I've decided next week's Metaphor of the Week will be : "A Writer's Notebook is a Personal Treasure Chest." Next week, we'll be reading the forward to Ralph Fletcher's A Writer's Notebook: Unlocking the Writer in You, and it will mesh nicely with this metaphor.
Here is the display my students will see as they file in after their Labor Day weekend. Click on the image to see it in larger form.
I've decided to add a new feature in my classroom: The Metaphor of the Week. I want to really push my students to think metaphorically this school year, so I will be providing a weekly example. Eventually, I will have students assigned to create upcoming weeks' metaphors for the whole class, as well as individual metaphors for their writer's notebooks.
I--who will also be teaching my students to draw Mr. Stick (our writer's notebook "mascot")--will be illustrating each week's metaphor with an original Mr. Stick by me. I will be challenging my students to create their own (different) Mr. Stick drawings based on the week's metaphor.
In my new classroom, I've got two half-sized white boards on either side of my Interactive SmartBoard. I've decided one of these half-boards will hold my "Mr. Stick's Metaphor of the Week." Here is the metaphor/drawing I created for our first week of school. Click on it to see it larger:
My third and final bulletin board in my new classroom has become a "Published Students" display. It is going to be used to motivate my students to write hard and and revise well this school year. With a promise of "fame" and a beyond-the-classroom audience, students do work harder during a writer's workshop. I believe this, and I will use this belief to energize my students.
Back from vacation! Time to get serious about my new classroom! I'll have a brand new set of 6-8th graders joining me at the end of this month, and I need to excite them about the reader's and writer's workshops I'll be guiding them through.
I have three bulletin boards in my new classroom. The next three posts will share what I'm planning to put on them!
It's Friday! Spent the last week not only enjoying some time in the garden but also revising on two more of my writer's notebook lessons that will promote Writing Across the Curriculum in my new classroom next year. As always, my inspiration came from building teacher-models of the lessons I'll be asking my students to participate in.
The Common Core State Standards--rolling out K-8 next year here in Northern Nevada--have a Writing Across the Curriculum Element that I have been taking very seriously. I hear teachers de-cry that the CCSS will take away our teachers' ability to be creative, but I disagree. I worked very hard to make these two new lessons all about my creativity, and I hope they inspire you to be even more creative next year.
The first lesson I revised on this week was "Rhyming Couplets Across the Curriculum" lesson, which has students creating rhyming lines about newly learned content. Here's my new teacher-model for this revised lesson:
|Click here to access this writer's notebook lesson on-line at my website!|
|Click here to access this writer's notebook lesson on-line at my website:|
I have two new writer's notebook lessons for you to compare and contrast!
I've been getting pretty excited about the writing across the curriculum that we're going to have our students do next year. From pre-writing (in learning logs and writer's notebooks) to publishing (on blogs and for portfolios), our students will be proving they can think deeply about all four content areas (math, science, language arts, history) by creating original pieces of writing that demonstrate their abilities to make deep, cognitive connections.
Because my own writer's notebook has--until this point--mostly been about topics we study in language arts, I have been busily adding pages to it that reflect the type of thinking we want our students to do for writing across the curriculum. As I always do, I am publishing the lessons to go along with my notebook pages online.
Here are two new teacher models that I created during the the last two days. I've done these lessons before but this is the first time I've had a writer's notebook model to show ahead of time:
#1: Unusual Recipes-- where students create recipes for items you would not find in an actual cookbook.
|Click here to access my online write-up that goes with this model page.|
|Click here to access my online write-up that goes with this model page.|
Wow! I have been put on an amazing middle school team next year; come late August, I'll be teaching language arts (6th-8th grade), while the three other teachers of my team will be teaching the science, math, and history to the same group. We will have these kids for three years, which I think is an amazing way to teach, especially when I think of the high-quality teaching that I know will come from the classrooms of Kelly, Holly, and Sue--my three brand new colleagues next year. I seriously am in a "dream teaching situation" next year.
|Click here for the whole lesson write-up.|
|Click here to access my complete online lesson that inspired the above model.|
It's kind of official! I am heading back to the classroom next year. Needed to say "Goodbye" to my previous workplace (a teacher training center) because the work became about politics and keeping superintendents happy--not about what's good for teachers.
So...I am crazily working on writer's notebook pages this summer--going to make my writer's workshop all about what begins in the writer's notebook next year.
Reserving this week's post to honor my father, who passed away 7 1/2 years ago. Right after he'd retired, he began writing short, personal narratives to give to his children and grandchildren. I have two of his stories posted at my website's tribute to my family's writers. I am particularly fond of his story, My Friend Bro, because it was a rare display of non-stoicism on his part.
My family's writing at my website: http://corbettharrison.com/family.html
Below, is my favorite photo of my Dad and his three sons; we were all trying to be equally stoic that day!
|If you're encouraged to write something that your family can treasure for years to come, I hope you do so!|
At the final training of the year at one of my focus schools last week, I challenged my fellow educators with this: "This summer, consider starting your own writer's notebook that you can show your students next fall." I showed them some new pages I'd recently added to my own writer's notebook (which I just started this year and which I had been showing them all year).
About the challenge, I got a lot of "Yeah, right" looks from the majority of the teachers, but at the end of that final workshop, several (less than 10%) came up to me and told me of their intentions to do just that...to start their first writer's notebooks.
I spent this whole year diligently challenging teachers to share their own writing with their students more. Share their notebooks, share their rough drafts, share their revision strategies, share their final drafts...just share something. "You'll see a whole new energy about writing from your students if you do this," I assured them, citing my own past experience.
I get it--the resistance from teachers--and yet I kind of don't. We share our reading strategies with our students. We share or problem solving thinking when we work on math. Why are we so resistant to sharing our writing process? How messed up did our own schooling make us that we're so afraid of showing our own writing to a bunch of kids who--more likely than not--look up to us?
PLEASE...a final plea as my hair turns a bit more gray based on teachers' general unwillingness to do this...PLEASE...change your practices and include yourself in the writing process more next year. PLEASE.
Start a writer's notebook this summer. Just get a few pages done that you can show your students in the fall.
My final writer's notebook challenge for the summer is for teachers...teachers whom I hope will start their own notebooks this summer. Students can do this one too, but I'm talking to teachers today!
Here's the notebook challenge: think of three favorite toys from your own childhood or that belong to your own children. Create a page that shares the "thinking" you think those toys would do if they were accidentally lost. What would those toys' voices sounds like? What would they say to their missing owners? Where would they be lost? Here is my notebook page based on this simple prompt; it contains both images and words to inspire me to write more:
I'm going to admit right now that I have a cool summer learning activity planned for myself. As you must know by now if you're following this blog, I've been keeping my first writer's notebook myself this past year, and about half of its pages are currently filled. When I've shown my model to students as part of a demo lesson, I have an amazing response. "Do we get to do that too?" is the most common question I am asked. "Tell your teacher you want to!" I respond. I've helped a lot of teachers add writer's notebooks to their pre-writing tools this year.
Meet Austin (at left--an old picture from a few years back is all I have); he's a colleague's son who's going into seventh grade in September. Since third grade, he's been featured at WritingFix because he's been a participant in our NNWP's TWIST Camps. This summer, because he's now too old for the TWISTs, he and I are working on a project we're calling "Corbett & Austin Keep Writer's Notebooks."
He and I will be chatting (over Skype) about funny ideas we have about new writer's notebook pages; he's just starting his, while I'm adding new pages to mine. We will then be getting together--face to face--and creating our pages with a shared set of pencils, pens and crayons. Then, we'll both be using our pages as inspiration for longer stories or poems or whatever. I'll be turning each idea into a web-page at WritingFix, and next school year, our Writing Lesson of the Month network will be featuring both Austin and my pages and the stories/poems they inspired. Our hope is to inspire whole classrooms (all grade levels!) of students to create similar pages and to share the stories/poems they eventually write.
To make sure we're both on the same page, Austin and I will be doing several pages together right at the beginning of the summer, and these initial notebook pages will be based on lessons already posted at WritingFix that we'll be modifying with our work this summer.
If you've successfully inspired your students to keep writer's notebooks this year, then now is the time to plant "seeds" in your writers' minds that will keep them working in those notebooks over the summer. This is the first of three Notebook Summer Challenges for you (from me) to share with your students.
Now I am a lover of language! Palindromes and oxymorons excite the tar out of me. I also believe puns to be fantastic. I have devoted full pages in my writer's notebooks to these topics, and when I hear (or make-up) a new pun, palindrome, or oxymoron in my daily work, I know I have a place to record them.
The other day, I came up with a brand new palindrome: Exam axe...you know, that's the axe they give novice firefighters when they take the "break the burning door down" test as they're testing to become full-fledged firemen. My brain works in this crazy way, and I am glad to have a place in my writer's notebook to record them.
My Summer Notebook Challenge #1 is based on a language pun that I love: Tom Swiftie jokes. Inspired by the writing style of Victor Appleton, author of the Tom Swift adventure books from long ago, this is when you write a dialogue sentence with a dialogue verb (said, reply, etc.) that sits next to an adverb. The goal is to make what's said in quotes pun off the adverb. For example, here are two of my favorite Tom Swiftie puns:
Posted in Labels: Discussing Writing Samples at the Analysis and Evaluation Level
I'm spending the next two days hammering out end-of-year materials for our Northern Nevada Differentiated Instruction Program: The Student Learning Facilitator (SLF) Program. As soon as Wednesday night's portfolio celebration is completed, I am full-time committed to finishing our new Expository Print Guide for 6th - 8th grade teachers.
Yesterday, between SLF observations, I managed to complete the second set of 6th grade "sparklers," which puts the sixth grade section of the guide very close to completion. This set of Sparklers was based on this practice prompt: Ever since the cave man invented fire and the wheel, people have been inventing things to move us forward. What invention do you think has been the most important? Explain your answer with relevant, showing details.
|Click here to open this 6-page document of 6th grade Sparklers|