Monday, February 10, 2014

Happy Dances All Around.

Well it's February and I have been slumming it on Pinterest a lot these days with my cabin fever and all. So this happened...
Happy Dance #1. 

I toyed with the idea of graffiti for my next book project. Rewind: okay, book projects. The way this happens in my classroom has evolved over the past couple of years. I never wanted to do the classic book reports that I completed as a child (well that I partially completed and my mom partially completed at 2 am the night before it was due - LOVE YOU MOM!) and I had an insane struggle with Accelerated Reader... my 12 year grudge towards AR still taking up unnecessary space in my emotional bank - ha.

My first year teaching I gave a slew of options for book projects each month to my students. I had learned in college Choice = Good. I soon found myself trying to find new and exciting book projects each month for my students to complete... in fact as many as five a month (wipes sweat off forehead.) Not until April of my second year teaching did I see the value in all of my students completing the same project. My teammate brought Mr. Hughes' DODECAHEDRON book project to the table -
They looked especially bomb hanging from the ceiling at open house. 
Happy Dance #2!
I then discovered if I give my students a highly engaging book project, that also, let's be honest - was fun and looked REALLY REALLY AWESOME - they would all totally buy in. So here starts my journey of the ever evolving book project. 

Now this is RIGHT up my alley. I love teaching reading and adore being creative so I'm not admitting this, but one of my secret pleasures is completing a book project model before I assign it to my students. This was another thing I struggled with - if I show them an example will it hinder their creativity? I found quite the opposite actually. My level of students need the scaffolding and need the model. My kids are now begging for their book projects each month, and dare I say it, they all seem to turn them in ON TIME.  Oh education Gods please don't jinx me for that one :)

Backtrack to graffiti. I love this quote by Steve Jobs and have it hanging in my classroom. 

This quote IS me. I am constantly being sparked by my surroundings, which is why when I saw this image on Pinterest about one of my favorite books - it stopped me in my (pinning) tracks - which isn't easy mind you.  

I couldn't NOT develop a book project like this. Then came a Powerpoint chalk-full of images of POSITIVE graffiti. We had a discussion about how graffiti is a powerful thing in society and how it has the capability to send positive messages to countless individuals who see it.

I will let the students' Novel Locker Graffiti speak for itself... 

They did a beyond phenomenal job. Along with their graffiti they needed to pick 5 of the most essential quotes to elaborate on. They wrote a paragraph for each explaining how it connected to the plot or theme of their text. 
Happy Dance #3 :)

I hope you have many moments to insert a little happy dance this wintery week, because life is pretty - dang - good.

Stay chip free and standards based!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Polar Vortex - TAKE 2

So my nails say "Spring is in the air..." and the imaginary birds are chirping. The 4 foot icicles hanging from the roof say "get real Jessica..." and the set in salt stains on my Uggs agree. I NEEDED a dose of Spring after TWO MORE COLD DAYS set our school schedule soaring into summertime. 4 days and counting people! 
Bikini So Teeny is one of my ALL TIME favorite summer colors. It looks bomb on the nails when you are sporting a tan - my paleness doesn't give this color justice. :sigh:

Then there is Mimosas for Mr. and Mrs. - Finding an opaque pinky neutral is near impossible. This one is legit, but know this is three coats. Yeesh.

This week in 6th grade it has been a whirl of realizations. The first one is that I really, and I mean REALLY love my students this year. The past two years on the last day of school I have cried, and just thinking about loosing this group is sickly painful. Okay enough sap, sorta. I also have realized how much of an impact I have actually had in my couple years in 6th grade. In the past couple weeks I have seen a handful of my past students who have come to visit me. I get some pretty tight hugs when they tell me that 7th grade just isn't the same. I think that's pretty gutsy for a cool 7th grader to admit. So THIS is that feeling you are supposed to get as a teacher? Pretty. Dang. Awesome. 

I also had my post conference for my second observation. I love walking out of those meetings. I always feel like I am in the right place. I also walk out thinking. As much as I think I think too much (yikes) I like thinking, and people who make me think. Oh hey, Ms. Spethmann rocking out that metacognition lesson - thinking about her own thinking. Is your brain exploding yet? Mine is :) One of the questions my AP posed to me was on my assessment of my students annotations. I had spent SO much time, SO many lessons, SO many smelly marker notes, SO many articles, and an anchor chart or two on the teaching of annotating - building a relationship with text. Here's the think tank moment: how was I assessing their annotations. BING! Hello Jessica, assessment driven instruction? Shame on you! So I posed the question to my team and blabbered on with my way of "thinking out loud," on how I want to develop a rubric for annotating. Here you have it....

 My fantastic teammate proposed the idea of an acronym. This would help the students focus while annotating. I started a couple of letters and passed on my notes. My other teammate flawlessly filled in the letters I had missing, and here you have it! 

In classic Ms. Spethmann fashion - I included a bookmark for the students to have out as they are annotating. Always supporting my 6th grade peeps! On neon paper of course, because REALLY is there any other way?

Because let's face it - life is better in neon :)

Stay chip free and standards based!