Five for Friday: Post Vacation Blues!

Happy FriYAY everyone!  It has been way too long (two weeks, yikes!) since I've linked up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five For Friday! I feel like I've been MIA without it!  This weekend is a busy one so before it begins, let's recap with my highlights from the week!

I had a great week, mostly because my husband and I were in heaven, also known as Nassau, Bahamas.  It was such an amazing break from reality and all things Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Back to School stress.  As much as I LOVE it, it was nice to unplug and spend some quality time together! 

We stayed at the Sandals Royal Bahamian and it was everything we wanted it to be and more.  Peaceful, beautiful, delicious food, and tons of fun!  They had a private island that you could take a ferry over to so we did a few days that we were there.  It was paradise.

Here my husband swam out to a secluded island off the beach and was WAY too proud of his accomplishment.  Scaredy cat (me) stayed behind to snap the pics!

I don't think I need to say anymore, this sign from the island sums it up for me!  It was a fantastic few days and I highly suggest the resort to anyone who's looking for a getaway! Like all good things, it went by way too quickly.

Have you been following along with my Launching the Writing Workshop Do's and Don'ts series??  I'm hoping that you're learning some helpful tips and tricks to use in your classroom to kickstart your writing workshop for the year.  Last night I posted the next issue in the series, Writing Workshop Essential Routines.  I hope you'll check it out here and feel more prepared to get started!  It has been so much fun to share my passion with everyone and I can't wait to write more about it.

Speaking of writing workshop, I am PUMPED because I will be attending the August Institute on the Teaching of Writing this coming Monday!  I can't wait to learn from the nation's best to further my knowledge on the writing workshop.  I will definitely be blogging about my experience and reporting back to all of you about what I learn!  

Are you prepping for Back to School?!  Of course you are, what a silly question to ask!  I have started to create more resources to get me set for the beginning of the school year.  I LOVE using  brag tags with my students as positive reinforcement for their behavior and I'm hoping that this new set that I just made will be the perfect way to introduce them to my firsties.  If you're interested in starting brag tags with your students and need some for the beginning of the year, you can check these out in my TpT store here!

I got home from the Bahamas and was feeling a little bummed to get back to reality.  But, then I had the happiest mail day because my new Jane bracelets finally came!  I saw these on their Instagram and instantly fell in love.  I can't wait to rock these at school each day and be able to look down for instant motivation.  They have a bunch more of inspirational sayings at that fit perfectly with the blogging/TpT/teaching world.  

I hope you all had a great week!  This weekend my husband turns the BIG 3-0!!!  I'm hosting a huge surprise party for him at a bowling alley in NYC and I hope he loves it!  I'm super nervous that it all goes according to plan!  Wish me luck!!!

Enjoy your weekend lovelies!  Thanks as always for stopping by!

Launching the Writing Workshop: Essential Routines

Hello everyone!  Thank you SO much for stopping by and continuing to read my series about Launching the Writing Workshop: Do's and Don'ts!  If you're here for the first time, welcome!  I'm so honored that you took some time away from your day to read about my favorite subject; the writer's workshop.  

Over the last week, I have shared a few tips and tricks that I have picked up from being a writing workshop teacher.  I must mention again that as much as I would LOVE to be, I am not associated with Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project.  But, I have been trained in their summer institute and have attended several professional development opportunities.  Ever since beginning my teaching career, I fell in love with Lucy Calkin's principles and method of teaching.  These posts are based off of my own experiences in the classroom. 

So far, we've covered the Do's and Don'ts of the Writing Center, The Philosophy behind the writing workshop, and the Do's and Don'ts of the Mini-Lesson.  Today I'd like to share with you the nitty gritty of the ESSENTIAL routines to your writing workshop.  These of course, are NOT the only routines that should/could be used, but I have found that they're the most important to get your workshop off the ground in the beginning of the year.  Each and every routine must be modeled, modeled, and modeled again before any student will have it mastered!  But, these routines plus modeling will help get your workshop running like a well-oiled machine!

Whether your students sit in individual desks, tables, or groups of desks you should assign a table/area captain.  This captain will be rotated throughout the school year, however, they are the ones COMPLETELY responsible for gathering the materials for students in their area at the start of workshop.  When I say, "It's time to get set up for workshop!"  My table captains automatically know that means head to the writing center, get their groups writing folders, and pens.  They will return to their tables and calmly pass out folders to each member of their group and set pens on top of each person's name tag.  THIS IS NOT DONE BY THE TEACHER (sorry for the shouty capitals!)  I want to teach my students independence from the start and this is a great way to do it. 

This routine insures that each student gets the materials that they need BUT in a timely and organized manner.  What you DON'T want to have is each student rushing to the writing center and trying to grab their favorite pen that somehow writes better than the exact same other ones.  You know you've heard that before!

After table captains pass out the materials, students need to think of a plan for themselves that day.  Do they need more paper from the writing center?  Are they continuing to work on a piece from the day before?  Before being asked to come to the meeting area, students should have their writing papers or pieces out on their desks ready for the day.  They should also keep their pens on top of their name tags that way when they return to their writing spots from the mini-lesson, they'll be all ready to get started!

If you take nothing else from this post other than this point, then I have made a difference!  Pair students up with like-ability partners.  This allows for more successful conversations, help with editing and revising, and positive modeled behavior.  Partners are ESSENTIAL to the writing workshop.  Students don't just use them during the editing stage of their writing but for everything!  Partners should be changed throughout the year but they should still be matched with a friend of like-ability, I promise it makes a difference

.  You can also assign partners names like, Partner 1 and Partner 2, Ketchup and Mustard, or Peanut Butter and Jelly.  That way you can switch on and off during turn and talk or share time without an argument.

I say this is important because what you DON'T want when it's time for your mini-lesson is a mad dash to the carpet and a fight for who sits where.  By calling students to the meeting area, carpet, or whatever you choose to call it, by groups or tables you cut down on this negative behavior.  This way students can choose where they sit in a more organized way and save a spot for their partner calmly if they don't sit at the same table.  

Often times during mini-lessons there's a portion where we ask students to become actively engaged in the lesson.  This means, we want them to either help us with something in our own writing or practice with their own pieces.  At the beginning of my teaching, I wouldn't always be sure whether I wanted my students to bring their work with them and would have them running back to their spots to get their materials in the middle of a mini-lesson.  Talk about a waste of time!  I started to just leave the guessing game out of it and ask my students to bring their writing folders (or notebooks if you use them) with them to the meeting area for EVERY mini-lesson.  My students know to sit on their folders when they come so they're not distracted.  Yes, they definitely get a kick out of the fact that they SIT on their folders!

Speaking of active engagement during a mini-lesson, there is NO better way to engage your little writers than by asking them to "turn and talk," to their partner during a mini-lesson.  You might do this after you ask a question or want them to try something in their own writing.  If students aren't sitting with their partners it gets VERY difficult to share their thoughts. Especially when you have students crawling over each other to get to their partners in time (yes, I speak from experience!)

I have said this before but it should be mentioned again.  At the end of your mini-lesson have a call to arms and get your writers excited about their work for the day!  I always say, "Off You Go!"  and they really truly are off on their own after that.  Once they leave the carpet they either return to their desks and get started or they take their writing materials and move to their "writing spots."  Some of my little friends work better around the room like at a larger table or on the floor.  As long as it's beneficial to them, I don't make my kids sit in their desks for writing time.  

Here are some of my lovelies in their writing spots with their partners.

I LOVE this routine!  I don't know about you but when I'm blogging, creating, or lesson planning I need a little background noise.  The same goes for my students!  I like to play Pandora Radio:  Rockabye Baby! for my students.  They get such a kick out of hearing familiar rock and roll tunes set to lullaby.  Not to mention that it's very soothing.  I always tell them that they can talk but not louder than the music.  Another reason why it's my favorite time of the day!

Oh my heart goes pitter patter for anchor charts!  Most of writing workshop mini-lessons revolve around an anchor chart that is created with students or before students are introduced to a new concept.  I continue to refer to these anchor charts during independent writing time with a mid-workshop interruption to remind them of their objective or during a writing conference.  

I ALWAYS keep writing charts near the meeting area or on our Writing bulletin board so students can easily refer back to them! Side note: they're not always pretty but they're always useful!

This is probably the single most repeated phrase during writing workshop for the entire year!  My students learn from the start that a writer's job is never done!  We always say, "When I'm done, I've just begun!"  This means when a writer THINKS they're done with a piece they can always 1) add to their words 2) add to their pictures 3) start a new piece!  Gone are the days of, "I'm done! Now what do I do?!"  Nope...everyone say it with me, "When you're done, you've just begun!"

As important as these routines are to your writing workshop, I want to again say that the most ESSENTIAL piece is; YOU!

If you remain consistent, enthusiastic, and curious about your writers they will follow suit!

I hope you have gained some useful information from this post and feel more confident to launch your workshop with your incoming students!  I'll be back soon with more posts in this series including:

*Do's and Don'ts of Your First Few Days of Workshop
* Do's and Don'ts of Using Mentor Texts
*Do's and Don'ts of Assessment.

If you have ANY questions or would like to see me elaborate on other information please let me know!  I'm thrilled to share that I will be attending the Summer Institute at Teacher's College NEXT WEEK in an advanced session!  I'll be in two groups that are being run by authors of the Units of Study and can't wait to share all of the new tips and tricks that I learn while I'm there!

Until then, keep calm and write on!  

Thanks as always for stopping by!

Launching the Writing Workshop Do's and Don'ts: The Mini-Lesson

Hi all and welcome back!  Thank you so much for stopping by and continuing to check in with my Launching the Writing Workshop Do's and Don'ts series of posts!  So far, I've shared some tips and tricks to use with setting up your writing center, as well as the background and philosophy of the writing workshop.  If you're just tuning in, make sure to scroll back through my older posts to check them out.

Throughout the rest of the series, my hope is that you will learn more about ways to launch writing workshop, routines to use throughout the year to make your workshop more effective, and some other do's and don'ts to carry with you!  This is just a tentative list, I've already steered off of it in fact and I would love to continue to answer more questions that you have!  I promise to try my best to share my own experiences and things that I have learned with all of you!

Today I'm really excited to share with you an essential part of writing workshop.   I want to delve a little deeper into the brains of the w.w.; the mini-lesson.  If the writing center is the heart of workshop, then the mini-lesson is definitely the brain.  The mini-lesson is an incredibly important part of your workshop and one that the rest can not function without.  

Below I have included a little image that I created to show the parts of what your writing workshop should be.  It's clear that the BULK of your workshop is NOT the mini-lesson. What???!!!  I know, but it's true.  Something that has been difficult to learn about workshop teaching is the importance of TALKING LESS and LISTENING MORE! As important and essential as your mini-lessons are, they are not the largest part of your workshop time.  

The bulk of your writing workshop SHOULD be independent writing time for you students. How else are they going to practice what you preach?!   I'll get into what YOU should be during while they're writing in another post.  The mini-lesson although short is essential.  Each mini-lesson has 5 very specific parts included in it.

Components of a mini-lesson include:
-Teaching Point (objective)
-Active Engagement (get students involved)
-Link (closing)

There are different kinds of mini-lessons as well:
Teacher demonstration/model: Where a teacher is sharing a new skill and modeling from their own writing or an example from a mentor text.
The inquiry lesson:  This kind of mini-lesson has the teacher presenting the students with materials to investigate author's craft and guiding them towards the lesson objective.
Shared writing/interactive writing:  Shared writing is where the teacher holds onto the pen and demonstrates the process of writing in front of the students.  Interactive writing is where the students are allowed to use the pen and interactively create the texts.

Even though your mini-lesson is indeed mini, these 5 parts work together in a way to best engage and support your writers.  So, let's get into those handy Do's and Don'ts!

  • Call your students to the meeting area in an organized way.  Use a hand signal, a saying, or a non-verbal cue by tables to have your students meet you on the carpet.  Practice this routine!(more in another post)
  • Mini-lessons should be just that: MINI!  Set a timer or an alarm for yourself before beginning. The mini-lesson should be between 8-10 minutes.  Once that alarm goes off, end it!  
  • Start your mini-lesson with a connection.  Whether that be a reminder of what you taught the previous day, something your students would have done last year, or a personal short story of something you experienced.  Let your connection be a 2 minute start to your mini-lesson.
  • Clearly state your objective THROUGHOUT the mini-lesson.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.  If your goal for the mini-lesson is for the students to recognize that all stories have a beginning, middle, or end, say it multiple times. 
  • Model, model, model.  Practice what you preach.  If you're teaching students to add an introduction, model it on your own writing or show it in a mentor text.  
  • Have your students actively engaged.  Ask them to bring their writing folders, an example of their own work, or a white board to the carpet with you.  During your mini-lesson ask them to practice the skill after you model it and share it with their partner.
  • Have a call to arms!  End your mini-lesson with a link to their own writing before sending them to their writing spots, "Okay writers, if you're going to try to add a question in your introduction during writing today give me a thumbs up."  "Great!  Now remember today and every day, writers can use questions in their introductions to get their reader's attention!  Off you go!" 
  • Create your OWN mini-lessons!  As long as you have the 5 parts of a mini-lesson you can create your own to fit the needs of your learners!

  • Just expect your students to remember how to gather for a mini-lesson.  Practice it throughout the entire year!
  • Make your mini-lesson into a maxi lesson.  After that 10 minute mark you will lose the attention of your students and cut down on their independent writing time.  Big NO NO!
  • Skip the connection.  It's important to get the attention of your students by connecting to them personally or activating prior knowledge.  
  • Say the objective once. You want your writers to understand what their goal is during workshop time and remember the strategies that you're teaching them.
  • Read a mentor text example during your mini-lesson.  Try not to at least as difficult as that may sound.  Share the picture book or informational text during shared reading or read aloud to not take up too much time in your mini-lesson.  Then, during your mini-lesson re-read a specific part that helps highlight your mini-lesson objective.  
  • End your mini-lessons without restating the teaching point.
  • Just use the mini-lessons provided in your teacher manuals. You know BEST what your students need to practice.
  • Expect students to only work on that particular objective during writing time.  THIS IS TOUGH!   The writing workshop is a process so some students may be at different points in their writing.  As long as your students are using skills taught in mini-lessons throughout the unit, they're on the right track.   

Wow, that was a lot longer of a post than I expected.  I want to leave you with one of my favorite quotes I heard abut the writing workshop and that was,  "You are what your workshop needs."

I can't remember the specific staff developer at the Reading and Writing Project that shared this nugget but I just LOVE it.  

I'm sure you have questions and I would LOVE to answer them.  Please feel free to leave them in the comments below or email me.  Please keep in mind, I'm no expert but I will try my absolute best to help you!

Make sure to stayed tuned for my next two posts, Do's and Don'ts of Essential Routines and Do's and Don'ts of Activities to Launch the Workshop (including mentor text suggestions).  

I hope you are all enjoying your last few weeks of summer!
As always, thank you SO much for stopping by!

Launching the Writing Workshop: The Philosophy

Hello everyone and welcome back!  I'm thrilled that there were so many people who found my first post in this new blog series helpful.  If you didn't catch my first entry in this new series, The Do's and Don'ts of Launching the Writing Workshop, you can check it out here first!  I am honored that so many teachers have tuned into my blog to gain some tips and tricks in launching the writing workshop.  As you may have read by now, it is my absolute favorite time of the day with my students for so many reasons!  I'm hoping that those reasons come across to you throughout this series.    My wish is that you continue to visit over the next few weeks, read these posts, and have more confidence launching the writing workshop with your students.

In this series, I hope to include posts on several different topics.  Let me again preface, that as much as I would LOVE the honor, I am not affiliated with the Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project nor am I working with any other writing workshop curriculum.  These series of posts are a combination of my own experience in the classroom as well as trainings I have attended. 

This is a list of discussion points that I originally came up with and have decided to elaborate on after comments and questions from readers.  I'm also planning on discussing the pen vs. pencil debate that I touched upon in my last post because that seems to be another hot button issue!  I hope these topics will be helpful to you to get your school year started on the right foot.

I'm getting a head of myself though.  In speaking to and responding to so many reader's questions, I wanted to take a step back and share the philosophy behind the writing workshop today in order to help answer some other people's questions.  This philosophy will help answer some questions about the pen vs. pencil debate, shed light on the structure of the mini-lesson, and provide the foundation for your writing workshop teaching.  

Period. End of Story.  The writing workshop is designed to be just that: a process.  Yes, there is a beginning and an end to your school day, as well as the writing workshop in your daily schedule.  However, the teaching that you do with your students and the skills they practice should be on-going. 

 Something that you introduce in your mini-lesson one day should continue to pop up in conferences and small group work throughout the entire unit of study and afterwards as well.  Why do you ask?  Well, because the writing workshop is not only teaching your students to write to meet the standards, but it's teaching them how to be writers like REAL AUTHORS.  This writing process doesn't change with the unit of study that you're in.

Throughout my writing workshop time, I do NOT address my students as "kids/students/kiddos."  They are my writers.  I get their attention by saying, "Writers, eyes on me."  "Writers, pens down."  "Writers, it's time to share."  That's what they are, they are my writers.  I want them to feel like real writers, act like real writers, and believe that they ARE real writers.

So, what does the writing process look like to help them achieve this?

  It's actually a little (okay, a lot) different than what I was taught in school and some may not agree (please don't throw your pencils at me).  

I found this image originally on Blair Turner's blog, One Lesson At a Time and I fell in love.  This so perfectly, illustrates the philosophy behind the writing process.  

The writing process should not be introduced in a linear way. Despite what those super cute charts on Pinterest show.   It is an ONGOING process that continues to move and circle back around.  

A student/real-life author does not just revise ONCE when creating a story.  They revise throughout the ENTIRE writing process.  That's what writing workshop is all about.  Teaching students to gather ideas by brainstorming and "touching and telling the story across pages."  Then, moving onto sketching and writing across those pages.  

Your writers should continue to revise throughout their writing.  They should constantly be adding details to their words and pictures.  Teaching our students to revise and see how their work is never done is the gift of writing workshop.

Where does editing fit into all of this?  Well, revising and editing are VERY different animals. I had a difficult time learning the difference!   Revising, like I said, is ongoing throughout the writing process.  My students revise by adding post-its with new beginnings, flaps to add sentences in the middle of their story, or "boo boo tape," on top of sentences that they do not like.

Editing is where my students grab those funky colored pens and check for punctuation, capitals, and correct spelling.  They're making sure that their stories make sense and are easy to read.  We edit independently and we also edit with our writing partners by checking the writing rubric for each unit of study.

Then, and only then, are they "fixing up and fancying up," their stories by coloring, re-writing messy parts, and adding a cover.  Not all of my students re-write their work, it depends on the child.

So, what does this have to do with the pen vs. pencil debate?  Pens help show the students ALL of their revisions that they have made throughout the writing process.  They can see the work they did that got them to the point where they were ready to publish and share their writing with the world. That's the point where we CELEBRATE!  

I love celebrations at the end of a unit of study!  My writers are so proud to show off their work!

Phew, okay I hope you're all still with me!  I thought this information was important to share before going back to our regular scheduled programming of how to best launch the writing workshop.

 With this knowledge of the writing process and the philosophy behind it, it's easier to understand the why and how of the writing workshop.

I hope that this post was helpful and left you feeling a little more excited and ready to inspire your future writers.  

I'll be back in a few days with my newest post in the Launching the Writing Workshop Do's and Don'ts series: All About the Mini-Lesson!  I can't wait to share more information with you!

Thank you SO MUCH for stopping by! 

Tell All Tuesday-My Dream Classroom!

Happy Tell All Tuesday everyone!  Diana at My Day in K and I can't explain to you how much we have loved getting to know all of you over these last few weeks!  This linky party has allowed us to connect with so many fabulous bloggers from all over and we can't believe the summer is coming to a close!  We hope you'll continue to join us as we share our last few Tell All Tuesday themes before the summer ends!

This week we're taking our Pinterest boards, secret and open to the world to see, and sharing our dreams for our classroom with all of you.  In my case, this post could also be titled, Reagun Tunstall's 2014-2015 classroom!  Her classroom pretty much IS my dream!  I can't wait to dream big with you and show you all my wishes for my classroom's future!

Before I share with you some things I would love to have in my own classroom, I thought I would share some images of what my classroom looked like at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year.

For the last few years I had rolled with a Boho birds theme and kept my room colorful and decorated with light pastels.  I wanted to create a happy and calm environment for my firsties and I worked really hard to do that.  But, as all teachers are completely aware of, our classrooms are our second (often first) homes and we spend countless hours in it for 10 months.  Having this same theme and color scheme for too long, this year I am making some BIG changes.  Some of them have been inspired by the images you'll see in this post.  I'm not allowed back into my classroom until mid-August so I will not have real pictures of my own room to share with you until the beginning of September but I've finally decided on a theme: soft brights with a black background!  

Here are a few of my ABSOLUTE favorite classroom images and some things I would LOVE to have in my home away from home.  I would love for you to share your opinions in the comments if you're a lucky teacher who has some of these things!

1.  Tables NOT Desks

Ohhhh what I would do to have tables in my classroom and NOT individual student desks!  I love this image from Schoolgirl Style and how this teacher set up her tables into groups of four.  My firsties are stuck with big clunky desks that are too large for my classroom and make setting up cooperative groups very challenging.  One day I would love to have tables of any kind in my classroom.  If you have tables, I'd love to know your thoughts!

2.  A Lamp

Okay, this may seem peculiar to you and I completely get it.  But, I used to have the cutest little lamp in my classroom library area.  Due to fire codes and school policy, I had to get rid of it.  I loved the soft glow and cozy feel it helped create.  I would love to be able to have a larger one by my reading area like here in Reagan Tunstall's classroom!

3.  Large bookshelves
Using the same image above, I would love to have large bookshelves to hold my guided reading and math center materials.  I have beautiful windows that line the entire one side of my classroom that lets in beautiful light.  But, that doesn't lend itself to much space to have tall items in the classroom.

4.  A Student Computer Center
Image from Tunstall's Teaching Times

Doesn't this computer center make your teacher heart sing?!  Oh Reagan Tunstall, show me your ways of classroom decorating!  This computer center is just gorgeous.  Easily accessible to students, several computers for multiple students to use, and clean and organized.  Yes please!

5.  A Book Closet and Wall Library

To have this many books on display, like this wall library from Project Nursery is just unreal. I would love a place for my students to go to and read quietly while choosing books right at their fingertips.  

6.  A Large Organized Closet with Book Organization

This closet is everything from First Grade Glitter and Giggles.  I love the organized sterilite tubs, the book big organization, and huge tubs on the top shelf.  My classroom has two small closets and no overhead space.  It's getting more organized but this is my closet goal for the 2015-2016 school year.!

Can I get a collective, Aaaahhh when looking at this image?!  Yes, that image on the left is what my closet looked like before the end of the year!  We're making slight progress but I have my work cut out for me!  Send some positive thoughts my way, will you please?

7.  Cozy Chairs

Doesn't this table and chairs from A Traveled Teacher just make you want to curl up with a good book and relax for hours?  That's exactly what I think my students would feel if this were in my classroom.  Sigh, I don't think it's in the cards for this year but maybe in the future!

What else do I hope to have in my dream classroom?

This image from Growing Firsties really says it all.  Despite all the "things" we have, what really matters is how we create a warm, inviting, and loving classroom environment for our students.  That is definitely a HUGE part of my dream classroom! 

Well, I hope you all had fun getting a closer look at my classroom hopes and dreams!  This has been great to share some of my favorite images that have been sitting in my Pinterest boards staring at me saying "Jaymeeee use me!"  Maybe this year, just maybe!

What are your classroom hopes and dreams?  We'd love for you to share your picks with us!  Don't have a blog? No worries, leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Thank you so much for stopping by!