Monday, October 19, 2009

Workshop Wonder

After compiling all our landform video for the virtual museum, I gave the flip cam to my treasure, N. He is an absolute marvel with technology and that domain is his passion and where he shines. His face lights up and is quick to offer suggestions when I'm dealing with technology "opportunities" in my classroom. So, he was an obvious choice for my mission. His goal was to walk into the classroom with the flip cam on and capture moments of engagement during our Creation Station.

What he captured was more than I could imagine! Through his eyes, one is able to understand the workshop. He caught on film what the meaning of differentiation is. While there are have-to's in school and in life, there is also choice. Choice to let our passions shine. Choice to learn in our own way. Choice to be who we are. My treasures are Embracing Learning, Embracing the Workshop, and Embracing their Passions! Enjoy!.

Friday, October 9, 2009


Today, my heart was not in my morning plans. I was leaving at noon to attend a funeral of a family friend, so sub plans and have-to's were on my mind along with the service that afternoon. Our schedule is very rigid in the mornings because Lisa (my partner) pushes in for 35 minutes to support 4-5 of my treasures in reading. She was absent, so I decided to change up the schedule.

After attendance, Reader's Cafe began. For 30 minutes, all you could hear was the environmental music in the background. All my treasures were engaged in their books. No movement except to find another book. No one was talking. As I walked around checking on their selections and notebooks, they were quick to finish our conversation and get back to their books. Today, I was a distraction. How did we get to this point?

Next, we had our morning meeting where we integrate math into weather and daily numbers. It was rainy and dreary outside. What a great day to experiment with Explore time. So, I explained that during our Explore Time, here are our choices: read/buddy read, write/buddy write, math choices(we have a math choice wall), and draw. As they dispersed to their choices, once again I watched closely at what they chose. I have many treasures who have a passion for drawing and art. I showed them how to make a "drawing book" by stapling and folding multiple papers together. Other treasures chose to go back to their books, even my promising readers. Some of my boys have a passion for writing. They have been collaborating on a story and were working on the final piece. While I was working at our "Guzik's Galaxy" table, I looked at each one of my treasures and was filled with emotion. Not once did I need to redirect. Not once did I need to have them lower their voices. Talking was minimal and quiet to respect those reading. How did we get here?

Our class is a community! We have respect for one another! We value our opinions and thoughts. Self-doubt has been my internal battle lately. I've been lacking assurance in my heart what I know about learning in my head. Today, I felt validated. Today, I was reaffirmed by my practice. Today, I recognized I am reaching my treasures in my own way. While I can't control the extraneous duties, have-tos, and meetings that are supposed to make my teaching easier, I can control the atmosphere and climate of my learning community in my room. Today, I celebrated learning!!!

Celebrate what you want to see more of.Thomas J. Peters

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Landform Museum Part II

Thursday and Friday, we began working with the clay to create our landforms. Many conversations took place about the different textures of the clay when everyone had the same recipe. Some clay formed great. Others were a gooey mess and not able to mold. One of my treasures began crying she was so sad her clay didn't set up. I used my personal moment from the day before and let her regroup by taking a walk. She came back and her friends loaned her some of their clay so she could participate in the inquiry time. She was going to try to make more that evening for Friday.

Of course, I forgot my flip video or camera, so I didn't capture what was unfolding. They were engaged. Conversations about the attributes of different landforms were taking place. Collaborative learning, questioning, and problem-solving were happening. Another teacher walked in and observed our time. She saw they were having a wonderful time and loving every moment, yet knew my "messy issues." It's those times I need to let go of my "control "(yes, I have issues only in Science!) and let them explore.

After we cleaned up, we discussed why some clay set up and others didn't. One variable was that some put it in the fridge overnight. A few decided to make another batch at home for Friday. The variable worked because the next day, everyone had perfect clay. Landforms were created and displayed in the hall with a "Landform Museum In Progress. DO NOT DISTURB!" sign they drew. Our goal Monday is to begin writing fact cards and speeches for our video taping.

I feel validated when my thinking and my treasures engagement mesh to create a wonderful learning opportunity. You can't quantify these moments.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Vision Therapy

Tigger, my 9 yr. old son who is currently in third grade, has been in many supplemental programs in his young life...Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Reading Recovery, Reading Support, and finally the latest, Vision therapy. And yet, learning to read and write has not been an easy process for him. Vision Therapy is somewhat controversial in the Educational and Medical Worlds. I know. I, as his mother, did some extensive research before we committed to it. However, I think it is working! Hold on...I'm not convinced that it is the "therapy" per se. Let me clarify.

Although we have been pretty diligent about taking Tigger down to OSU for therapy two times a month in addition to doing his therapy exercises at home 3-4 times a week, I think it is working because Tigger is ready! The vision therapy has made it really clear to Tigger that he has to look at the print in order to read. It has also made it really apparent to his parents and teachers that Tigger has been trying to read without looking. This seems obvious to most of us, but let me tell you a little more about Tigger.

Tigger is an auditory learner. He loves to listen to high level children's novels on CD from our local library when he is trying to get to sleep at night. Tigger loves stories. I have read to him since the day he was born. Many mornings and every night, he begs me to read to him. He has grown up in a rich literary environment and yet phonics are hard for Tigger. Applying letter sounds and recognizing word patterns is hard work and far from automatic for him. Tigger is busy...bouncy. It has always been hard for him to sit for long periods of time. Reading, for Tigger, is way to slow and methodical.

So, is Vision Therapy really working? Yes and no. No, because Tigger has had all of the pieces of the literacy puzzle all along, but yes, because he neglected the visual piece. Reading is a visual activity. Tigger's visual therapy brought that piece to the forefront. You have to look to read the print on the page and make meaning. Tigger has been trying to read without looking! His sense of story and knowledge of the language is so well developed that he has been trying to muddle through learning to how to read without looking. Slowly, but surely, under the watchful eye and careful guidance of his teachers and parents, Tigger is clawing his way into the the Literacy Club.