Tales of a Fourth Grade Something

This year, for my #ShadowaStudentDay, I became a fourth grader. Once again, being a student was exhausting and incredibly rewarding at the same time.

I stopped by the fourth grade classroom the afternoon before my visit to check on my homework so I was prepared for the day. I had to read the first two chapters of Moby Dick (Junior Classic), complete some addition of mixed number math practice, and prepare some spelling materials.  I was excited about the reading since the students were just getting started on a new book.

I also got a sneak peek at the 4th Grade’s Thursday schedule. I thought to myself — I better get a good night’s sleep!

img_1639

Here are some observations/highlights from my day:

1) Having a clean and organized desk in fourth grade is absolutely necessary for the multiple transitions throughout the day. Students were given 10 minutes to tidy up and organize at the start of the day. I had some helpful classmate give me some tips! It set me up for success!  

img_1644-1

2) Our morning meeting and greeting was calm and set a great tone for the day. We did some word puzzles to get our mind working. The fourth graders were very welcoming to their new ‘classmate’ and asked if they could call me Lorri. I thought it best that we keep it at Mrs. Carroll.  They were super cute about it. 🙂

3) I loved Reading class!  Digging into new characters (“Call me Ishmael!” ), making lists of character traits, inferring what the author meant in his writing — I miss this and it made me want to join a book club. What a great discussion about how unfair it is to judge people by the way they look. This time FLEW by!

Side note: I had a hard time stopping after two chapters the night before. I can imagine this is even harder as you get deeper into the book.

4) Fourth graders are trusted to work with matches! And, they did so responsibly in science class. We completed an awesome lab on gasses. The students loved it.

5) Time is tight in fourth grade and there is no time to waste! After science, we had a “working snack,” where students navigated stations. This was planned masterfully by my teacher, Mrs. Dixon. She called off different groups giving them the direction of what they should be doing:  illustrating character traits from Moby Dick, working on spelling, working on vocabulary, or reading to self.  During this block of time, Mrs. Dixon worked on personalized, directed spelling lessons with two of the groups. An impressive fete, for sure!  Each group of students had different spelling words that met their needs, including me! For the record, I had a very hard list from the Derivational Spelling Stage.  I had to sort these words and do some activities with them. I still can’t spell bureaucracy.

Then, I moved to the vocabulary activity.  I was bummed that I didn’t have time to read my book of choice but Mrs. Dixon reminded all of us that we would have more time for stations later on.

6) Energizers are less popular in fourth grade. I got the sense that all the students really wanted to participate in the movement activity but didn’t want to look “uncool.” Only 6 or 7 did. Very interesting. It made me a little sad. Of course, I didn’t care and jumped around with SpongeBob and it made me feel refreshed and ready to work again.

gonoodle

7) Writing is fun and most kids loved it! During Language Arts, students got right to work on revising their opinion stories or adding an introduction/ conclusion. Students seemed to know exactly what they needed to work on. Mrs. Dixon conferenced with students who needed some additional support. I enjoyed getting started on mine!

img_1660

8) While I am not the best artist, I still enjoy drawing and coloring! Our assignment was to illustrate a silly poem/song in preparation for Alan Katz’s visit to our school next week. I chose the one about a student who had a very overdue library book. I liked how we were asked to discuss our work with a classmate and offer compliments and suggestions.

img_1663

9) During Social Studies, I had a flashback of being in 4th grade with Mrs. Ross in 1979. Students were in the midst of a unit on government. There was a quick review of the three branches but then we watched “How a Bill Becomes a Law” and completed a fun, group activity with it.  So awesome that “Schoolhouse Rock” is still as loved now as it was back then!  


10) Listening to the little conversations between peers during math was awesome! That’s where you can tell learning is happening. “Wow. This seems easy now.” “I can’t believe I couldn’t get this yesterday.”

img_1661

Conclusions:    

Even after the desk cleaning/organizing earlier in the day, it was amazing how many students misplaced materials in what seemed like the bottomless pit of a fourth-grade desk!  This is an important skill and we need to keep having students work on it. 

After my 3 days of soreness after last year’s 2nd grade PE class, I was smart enough to pick a day when 4th grade didn’t have PE.  It was interesting, though, that on a “normal day” for me, I usually have about 10,000 steps by 3pm. When I was a fourth grader, I had 6,045 instead. Need to find a way to add more activity!

Desks are still uncomfortable to sit in for extended periods of time and I was grateful for the movement around the 4th-grade classroom. Students made use of all the spaces with ease and comfort. Need to keep working on options.

This was the easiest year to be without my phone. I took it out to take a few pictures but resisted all urges to check and answer email.

Once again, I cannot stress the valuable experience of walking the walk of a student for an entire day.  I thoroughly enjoyed my day and I thank all my teachers and classmates for welcoming me!

 

I Survived Second Grade! #shadowastudent Challenge 2018

IMG-1239

For the second year in a row, I participated in #ShadowaStudent Challenge to gain insight and perspective on being a student at Hamden Hall. What a great surprise to feel so welcomed into the 2nd grade classroom with my own desk, laminated name tag, book bag, and cubby!

Here are some reflections of my day:

1) 2nd grade desks are SMALL! Even for me. It’s a good thing we didn’t have to sit in them for too long.

2) Morning meeting truly set a positive tone for the day. (just as Responsive Classroom intended). So many important skills were reinforced during this time – takingIMG-1240 turns, eye contact, speaking clearly, self reflection, listening…I could go on and on!  Loved the dice greeting.

3) Read to Self was so awesome! I curled up with a good book (literally, with pillows on a comfy rug) and was able to read 47 pages – the classroom was THAT quiet and focused! (OK. It was a third grade book but it was still quite an achievement!) Yes, some kids were less engaged than others, but overall, it was a very calm and productive time for all. The 10 minute mini-lessons in Vocabulary and “Writer’s Workshop” were just the right amount of time for students to sustain attention and grasp the skills that were being taught.

IMG-12424) Choices are good and the kids really embraced having them. “Word Work” (my choice) wasn’t your boring 2nd grade daily spelling activities from 1978!

5) Carefully reading each question on a math assessment is still very important. I got one wrong because I didn’t do this! (Oh, and my “classmates” loved calling me out on it.) I was super impressed with the higher order thinking skills required to answer some of the questions on the Money/ Time Assessment. Ending the math block with TIME BINGO was super fun. (and I liked winning two rounds.) I was glad to see that the kids who didn’t win dealt with it just fine and were happy for others.

6) Energizers work! After the Daily 5, Snack, and Math block, I was fried! But, a little Go Noodle really helped. Check out the schedule for the day! WOW!

img-1241.jpg

7) While I still can jump rope forwards and backwards, I cannot do it for 2 Tom Petty songs continuously! (I thought I would die.) Flag tag was a lot of fun but after jumping so much, I was a slow target.  Note: I am still sore 3 days later. 

8) 30 minutes for lunch was just enough! Kids have interesting eating habits. The swings are still my favorite on the playground.

9) Waiting for water to boil is hard for adults and even harder for 2nd graders. We learned all about the water cycle in Science and the kids totally got it!

10) Ending the day with a collaborative STEM challenge was perfect! We had to set up an Alpine Downhill Ski course and get our lifesaver to make it through all of the gates (made out of pipe cleaners). A lot of great planning and communication skills were required and my fellow 2nd graders were awesome at it.
orig_photo590494_5764342       orig_photo590494_5764344

Once again, the #Shadowastudent Challenge was a very valuable experience and worth every moment I spent out of my office.  I highly recommend it for all teachers and administrators. There is no better way to see life from a student’s perspective.

Thank you to Erin Correa, Cait Murphy, Mark McEachern, Nally Sahin, Steve Jewett and the second graders for welcoming me and making my day so enjoyable! We have amazing things happening at Hamden Hall, and I am so proud to be a part of this learning community.

P. S. Remind me not to #shadowastudent on the same day as the Science Fair next year, though! I was EXHAUSTED!

 

 

“Writing is the New Black” and other highlights from my workshop with Ruth Culham

IMG_7174(1)As part of the graduate school course I took this summer in Fairfield University’s Reading and Language Development Program, I had the distinct pleasure of spending two full days with Ruth Culham,  author of The Writing Thief  and many other books and materials to support the teaching of writing. Her energy and enthusiasm were contagious, and she immediately hooked us in with…

Did you know, writing is the new black? It’s the “hot new thing…” 

We all know it’s not a new thing… but we need to make it “hot” again. Ruth promised to share strategies, common language, activities and materials to help all the educators in the room do this. She did not disappoint!

Here are my top 10 highlights from the day:

    1. “If students are to make knowledge their own, they must struggle with the details, wrestle with the facts and rework raw information… and communicate it to someone else.”  If students are to learn, THEY MUST WRITE.”  
    2.  Can a 6-year-old write a complete story? YES! “Temporary spelling” is OK!
    3. 6 + 1 Writing Traits give us a language to communicate with students about their writing. They make revision and editing tangible for teachers. Spiral each trait, don’t go through them in order.

 

      1. IDEAS: Content of the piece- the central message and details that support that message. Bring in any examples that are good for kids
      2. ORGANIZATION: Internal structure of the piece – the thread of logic, the pattern of meaning.
      3. IMG_7178(1)VOICE: Tone and tenor of the piece — the personal stamp of the writer, which is achieved through a strong understanding of purpose and audience. Use a highlighter to show students where their voice is starting to come through.
      4. WORD CHOICE: vocabulary the writer uses to convey meaning and enlighten the reader. This happens during read alouds…stop and point it out.
      5. SENTENCE FLUENCY: The way words and phrases flow through the piece. It is the auditory trait because its “read” with the ear as much as the eye.  LISTEN to the piece. Read above their reading level. Things that are cool and different.
      6. CONVENTIONS: Mechanical correctness of the piece. Correct use of spelling, capitalization, punctuation, paragraphing, and grammar and usage) guides the reader through the text easily.

(+1) PRESENTATION: Physical appearance of the piece. A visually appealing text provides a welcome mat. It invites the reader in.

4. BEST ADVICE TO TEACHERS: “Squeeze it once and let it go!” 

Kids cannot handle too many things… can’t take it in. Set ONE goal. Let them practice a specific skill. Hard for teachers to let it go… Less is more. Keep it simple. Don’t feel frustrated about how much there is to teach. Learning how to take one element and work it over is one of the new secrets…makes you less stressed and the kids get it.

5. When you get students involved in the writing process, writing improves. When students give effective feedback to peers in the process, writing improves. Teachers tend to take papers home because traditional peer feedback didn’t work. Give students a specific task to give feedback on. Example: “Sentence beginnings…”  “Go back and find the sentences that start with I and revise a few of them.” Don’t make the kids re-write their piece over and over again.

Here are scoring guides for K, Grades 1 – 2, and Grades 3 – 12, as well as “light” versions for students to assess themselves. Click here to view.

6. Conferring takes time. Harder to schedule. Do the over the shoulder little conferences to give feedback with a highlighter.  Goal should be that they can move on without you. Teach them to be self-reliant. Use phrases like:

  • “Consider adding a few more details….”
  • Suggest ONE thing — that makes them feel doable.
  • Refer specifically to the “trait” during feedback. Every time you are using it, it is teaching the student about it.
  • Resist using the word BUT. “Next, now, lets try… ” words that encourage

7. The purposes for writing.

  • Tell a story.
  • Provide information.
  • Construct an argument.

Descriptive has been removed as a mode. It should be taught within these others. It needs to be taught, but it doesn’t stand alone with these big “dudes.”

8. Be wary of “Curriculum by Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers.”  Use those sites for resources with a narrow lens. Active learning. Something MEATY. Here are some additional resources from Culham Writing.

9. What happens when you teach conventions using worksheets?  Students get all the questions right. There is a disconnect between worksheets and independent work. Does not transpose into independent work.

Why grammar worksheets don’t work: 

  • They make the lessons task oriented rather learning oriented.
  • Emphasize quantity over quality.
  • Teacher directed activity.
  • Unchallenging
  • Create dependents, not independence.
  • Invite conformity
  • Prevent students from devising their own ways of documenting understanding.
  • Create more work for teachers
  • Waste paper money and precious instructional time.

** There was a time when worksheets were effective. (Late 60’s early 70s).

Use Writing Wallet (instead of a worksheet).

You need: a file folder, two pieces of writing paper, a pen.

  • Decorate folder.
  • Have students create 2 – 4 raw writing pieces.
  • Choose one trait after a mini-lesson (model using a mentor text) and have the students find and correct that feature within their own writing. (for examples, transition words…. Word choice.)
  • One trait at a time!

Use different colors, highlighters, let it be messy!  After a while, have students choose a piece and clean it up… show it as BEFORE and AFTER.

10. We need to agree upon common language in teaching writing.  We understand and accept that people don’t like change but it’s not working the way it is. REALLY IMPORTANT. It’s not about us, it’s about our students. We need to build the bridge from the language from grade to grade!

Loved these two days! I left with a deeper knowledge of writing instruction and some great activities and resources to bring back to my school. The Trait Crates are awesome and well worth a look! Incredibly teacher-friendly — fantastic mentor texts with lessons aligned with each writing trait. Also worth a look is Dream Wakers: Mentor Texts That Celebrate Latino Culture.

I’ll leave you with this powerful quote from Pam Allyn that Ruth shared. It underscores the importance of the relationship between reading and writing. We need both to live! 

“Reading is like breathing in, writing is like breathing out.” – Pam Allyn

Thank you @WritingThief  and Fairfield University!

Three things to do before heading to #NAISAC 2017

img_4135I love the excitement and anticipation before attending a conference, especially NAIS. Whether it’s your first time at Annual Conference or if you are a frequent participant, here’s some advice before you head to Baltimore:

#1 Download the app!  Seriously, do it right now. You won’t regret it.

  • Familiarizing yourself with the app ahead of time will help you to get a handle on all that the conference has to offer.
  • Each year the app gets better. I see myself using tools such as “My Schedule,” “Workshops,” “Speakers,” “What’s on Now,” “Exhibitors,” and “Downloads.”  And there’s more, too! Check it out. Now.

#2 Plan ahead. Now that you downloaded the app, USE IT

  • Spend some time planning your days BEFORE you arrive. You can browse the workshops “by day,” “by track,” and “by type.” How convenient is that?
  • Plan multiple options for each time slot. This way, if a img_4137session is not meeting your needs, you have a backup plan. Attending EdCamps helped me realize my time is too precious at conferences like this to waste them in a session that is not meeting my needs.
  • Read up on the Keynote speakers ahead of time and if you are extra ambitious, maybe even do a little research about them. Personally, I am looking forward to Sir Ken Robinson on Friday morning!
  • Browse the exhibitors to see who will be there. Identify the vendors that you want to make sure you visit. You can view these “by category” or “by location.” Great, again! Exhibition Hall can be super overwhelming if you don’t have a focus.

#3 Follow #NAISAC on Twitter. And if you are not on Twitter, join today*. 

  • The conversations tagged with #NAISAC enrich the conference experience on so img_4136many levels.
  • Discussions are continued beyond the finite time within a workshop or keynote.
  • It’s easy to make connections with others and continue them long after the conference is over. So many amazing independent school educators will be at your fingertips through the #NAISAC hashtag.
  • Because you can’t be in two places at once, following #NAISAC can help you learn from people in other sessions.
  • If you are social media shy, the NAISAC app will allow you to see what people are talking about on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, and YouTube through the “Social Media” link.
  • If you are comfortable, share what you are learning as you go. I use twitter as a way to take notes. It keeps them short, sweet, and to the point. (140 characters or less!) And others can benefit from what I am learning and add to them.

*(Note: Here, here, and here are some resources on Twitter for educators.)

A little time invested now will pay off in the long run, making #NAISAC 2017 the best yet. See you in Baltimore!

P.S. If you have additional tips and advice, please leave a comment. 

It’s almost time…

NAIS 2016 Annual Conference Online Community

There’s always a feeling of excitement surrounding the NAIS Annual Conference each year- lots of preparation to leave school for a few days, and the anticipation of all the new ideas and energy the conference will bring is invigorating.

If this is your first time, here are a few tips that may help:

  1. Download the conference app TODAY!IMG_6899
  2. Spend some time on the app AHEAD of time. Browse each time slot and select 2 or 3 sessions that interest you. The app will give you a warning that you already have selected a session during that time. It’s OK. You have to have options! If one doesn’t work out, you can scoot out and catch another.
    IMG_6930
  3. If you are not on Twitter, join today!Here’s a link to a Twitter for Educators Beginner’s Guide. You will want to participate in all the conversations (a.k.a. backchanneling) that are happening during the…

View original post 254 more words

#naisac 2015 Admin Unplugged: Choice is a good thing!

When noon came on Thursday, it didn’t take long to get over the fact that our Admin Unplugged session was in the immense Grand Ballroom B. Participants trickled in and began to write session topics (or vote for others) on the easels at the entrance.

After about 10 minutes, Liz facilitated an icebreaker so participates could meet and introduce themselves to three different people. While that was happening, Justine and I were tallying the votes and setting up the 5 different discussion tables.

01d53300faca9288a17d9cc21ffe330de5c4324da7

The of topics of Scheduling, Teacher Evaluation, Head of School relationship with Admin Teams, Open Gradebooks, and Leadership Training were announced. We explained that attendees would choose one of the tables and have a 20-minute discussion surrounding that topic. It wasn’t long before everyone was seated and the conversations were off and running. At the end of 20 minutes, participants could choose another table and have a conversation surrounding a different topic or stay at the table and continue with the discussion.

The hour flew by, and participants seemed comfortable sharing their knowledge and passions with each other. Choice is a good thing! 

 

#naisac 2015: “Why Should More Parents Value Your School?”

NAIS Annual Conference 2015

My 8am session on Thursday morning was “Why Should More Parents Value Your School?”  Some great advice here from Richard Hardy from Concord Academy and Ben Edwards from The Art & Science Group.

Biggest takeaways:

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

“Don’t take on research until you are ready to be: 1) introspective and 2) act on the results.”

Here are my tweets:

View original post 208 more words

#naisac 2015: “Playgrounds, Parents, & Programs – Oh My! The Work of the Division Head”

 My first session at NAIS 2015 was a 3-hour workshop entitled: “Playgrounds, Parents and Programs- Oh  My! The Work of the Division Head.” It was engaging, relevant, and very informative.

Following an amazing presentation from three division heads at three different schools, the session included a “critical friends group” exercise used to unpack a challenging dilemma at our school. We were paired up and went through the process of pre-reflection, framing the dilemma, clarifying the dilemma, probing and discussing, making recommendations, and then reflecting on it. It was useful to have a peer listen, process, and then give feedback on something that was challenging for me. It was a great start to the conference!

Here are my public notes (tweets) and reflections on the session:

Another awesome #caisct Academic Technology Retreat!

making a buzzerEach year, the CAIS Academic Technology Retreat never disappoints. It’s filled with amazing, thoughtful, forward-thinking educators who debate, discuss and explore ways in which they can improve and enhance the learning experiences for their students. This year, our Keynote was Don Buckley.  His topic was “Design and Maker Thinking.”  Don is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of  Tools at Schools.  The focus of his presentation was to investigate the teaching and learning of design and maker thinking in schools. We thoroughly enjoyed his animated and engaging presentation and I, personally, loved his break-out session where we were challenged to design a wearable technology that would change the student learning experience as we know it.

Here are my tweets from my time at the retreat. (I needed to leave early due to commitments back at school.)

https://twitter.com/lcarroll94/status/466938856047394816

 

Here is a link to other tweets from the event.

Here is a link to our “App Smackdown.” Feel free to add your favorite tool/app to it!

This tweet by Rush Hambleton is, by far, one of the most powerful things about this retreat, and one of the many reasons it’s not to be missed each year.  Thanks for another awesome, awesome learning experience!

Here are some additional photos from the event.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

#NAISAC14: Opening General Session with John Chubb and Lyn Heward

daretoexploreThe official opening of NAISAC14 was filled with excitement and energy. John Chubb’s first remarks as President were critically analyzed by everyone in the room. I was impressed with his tone and enthusiasm and liked what he had to say. And while I felt Lyn Heward’s (COO and Creative Content Division Director for Cirque du Soleil)   talk went on a bit too long, she offered some inspiring words on creativity and risk-taking. Both helped set the tone for the conference opening. I was a little disappointed, given the theme was “Dare to Explore and Discover” and we were so close to the Kennedy Space Center, that an inspiring talk from an astronaut was not on the opening agenda.

Here are my notes: