Saturday, April 16, 2016

National Poetry Month: Poetry Madness Event

I'm pretty excited about the latest idea from our reading ambassadors.  Last month our reading ambassadors promoted the March Book Madness event hosted by Scott Jones and Tony Keefer in our school.  Our building focused on the Picture Book Challenge, though some students did vote in the Middle Grade Challenge as well.  The whole school was buzzing as the book brackets started to narrow to the final match-ups.  

Yesterday I stayed after school to complete our "Poetry Madness" bulletin board.  At our March meeting we began talking about what we wanted to do for our final weeks as ambassadors M said, "April we always have poetry writing.  Maybe we could do something with poetry."

"Yes, April is National Poetry Month," I added smiling. 

There was a pause and then T spoke up, "I love poetry.  Maybe we could do something like March Madness with the poetry."  

The room started to rumble as one ambassador after another jumped on board with her idea.  Before long it was determined that we would each bring a favorite poetry book if we had one to our next meeting and choose books for a "Poetry Madness" challenge for our school.

Last week students arrived with their poetry books.  Our media specialist, Jill Merkle, had collected a stack of favorites for the ambassadors to review.  Being a poetry fan myself, I brought some of my favorites to the meeting.  The first part of the meeting was spent talking about the poetry we brought and then reviewing the other books.  Toward the end of the meeting each ambassador took six post-its and began selecting their favorites.  Each post-it was one vote and ambassadors could use more than one vote on a poetry book they really liked.  We then selected the sixteen books for the competition based upon their votes.  We seeded these books for the challenge.  

Following the model of March Book Madness, voting will begin on Tuesday.  Our board is people/life poetry vs. nature/pets poetry.  I'm a little excited that one of my favorites, Forest has a Song by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, is a number one seed in the brackets.  Let's hope my favorite does a little better in this event than my favorite did in the March Madness Picture Book Challenge.  (Yes, I'm still a little sad that Wolfie the Bunny didn't win.) 

Next week, our reading ambassadors will begin to talk about the poetry books and our event with the students in their classrooms during morning meetings.  We'll be running advertisements for voting on our school news each week.  The poetry books selected have been placed on reserve in the library for students to read as they visit the media center.  During the final weeks, the ambassadors hope to read one poem from each of the remaining books to their classrooms.  What a great way to celebrate National Poetry Month!  

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Power of End of Workshop Sharing

Recently, as I listened to a group of first graders share their learning, I was reminded of the importance of leaving space for this time at the end of our workshops.  

The music started to play and students gathered in a circle on the carpet.  When the music finished and everyone was sitting together, the teacher called on the first student to share.  I walked over to sit in the circle and listen for a bit.  Before the share had ended, four students had been able to share their work and thinking from their learning time.  

When I had my own classroom and visitors would come to my room, I was always a little disappointed to see them leave before the share.  In my opinion, by not staying to see the share they would miss the piece that demonstrated whether the lesson had worked.  Had students been able to take what was discussed and move into the workshop to give it a try?  What did learners understand? 

We can't overlook the power of possibility in the moments we share with our learning community at the end of a lesson.  It's easy as the clock ticks to not make time for the share, but this time is essential for our learning to grow.

Share allows us to:

  • Check in with students:  Though digital tools allow us to see more of the work students do during their independent learning times, talking with students about their work during workshop allows us an opportunity to hear their thinking, consider their process, and think about next steps.  
  • Reinforce the learning of the focus lesson:  Having students share can give us an opportunity to allow students to share attempts at new learning with peers.  It can also provide the opportunity to clarify, reinforce, and restate points from our lesson within the context of student work.  
  • Build a common understanding (and common language):  By coming together as a community to talk about our learning, we can create a common understanding and build common language around new concepts.  Students often will share with peers important discoveries that can then be used to build an inquiry.  These lessons are always more powerful and carry more weight when shared by a peer instead of directed by a teacher.  
  • Stretch the lesson:  Often during independent work time students stay in their comfort zones, and don't reach for the next step.  Share time allows us to build a bridge between students' attempts and the next steps in learning.  Sharing also allows us to hear from students who are pushing past the current understanding and working to socially construct learning at a higher level of understanding than might have been possible without utilization of this time.   
  • Showcase new possibility:  By allowing time to share our learning, students can see new possibilities through the work done by their peers. 
  • Celebrate learning:  Share is the perfect time to celebrate new discoveries and new steps in learning.  By lifting learners who have pushed to the next level, we open the door for others learners and shine a spotlight on the importance of our time spent learning.