mid mini-lesson eureka Moment

Do you ever have those eureka moments teaching, when you get an idea all of a sudden, like mid mini-lesson? I had one of those moments today during reading workshop this afternoon. My lovely students were sitting in our rug area, and I was giving my mini-lesson about using learning progressions to analyze our responses about comparing and contrasting themes in two texts. I had the compare/contrast learning progression printed out and three sample responses I wrote. With their reading partner, I had them using the learning progression to give a grade to each of the sample responses, from level 3 to level 6. As they were sharing with their partners, the idea popped in my head.

When my grade level team norms student writing, we have a sample text that we grade in small groups and then each group shares out what scores we would give the writing piece for each standard on the learning progression (rubric). So, I thought, why not have my students do something similar. I rushed  over to my desk area where I had a basket full of small post-its. I found 3 extra copies of the learning progressions and put them on my bulletin board and labeled each one for each writing sample response.

I told my students, that one person from each partnership should come up and put a post-it note the grade they gave for each piece. As the students came up, it was a bit messy, but they got it done. Afterwards, we went over the different grades that they gave and I also gave my opinion of what I would grade it. Overall, the students grade similarly each piece. It was fun hearing why some students gave certain responses a higher or lower mark. I would definitely do this activity again!

Has anyone else had these mid-lesson eureka moments as well?

blogging alongside my students

Being Observed Like Lab Rats


After all these years of teaching, you would think that I wouldn’t be so nervous about being observed. All day, I couldn’t help, but feel anxious and excited as I awaited the time of my observation. This was the first time I was being formally observed for an entire lesson at my new school.

I had a lot planned for the 45 minute session. I would be doing an entire reading workshop, which included a mini-lesson, independent reading and share time. I was excited to have my principal come in because I honestly enjoy getting the feedback afterwards. When I was teaching in NYC, I had a phenomenal principal who always gave me really good and constructive feedback. He really challenged me to improve my teaching craft through his feedback and high expectations for learning at all times.

I was excited to have my new principal see my reading workshop as I’ve been working on improving a few areas like small group conferences and keeping better notes of conferences through my IPAD app confer. I totally recommend it if you have an IPAD!

The lesson overall went smoothly as I felt my timing was good and I was able to get through 3 small group conferences in a 30 minute independent reading session. I was able to keep my mini-lesson at 10 minutes and also get through the share at the end. It’s not easy getting all that packed into a short 45 minute session, but I felt a sense of relief  and accomplishment at the end.

When I came home and read through my students’ slice of life posts, one of my students had written about the observation and compared it to being like lab rats being observed by a scientist, but in a “good way”. I couldn’t help, but laugh out loud. How could you not love my students?! 🙂

The Teacher Effect

One of the things that I love about teaching fifth graders is what I call the “teacher effect”. Yes, I just made that up. What is it? The standard dictionary definition would look something like this. The ability to influence students in a positive manner due to your role as a teacher.

Here’s a specific example of how it looks like in my classroom. I tell my students about a new children’s book I just read. I give them a brief synopsis, then tell the students I will put the book in the classroom library. Then, I ask the students who would like to borrow the book. Without fail, almost the entire class shoots their hands up, excited and hoping to be chosen. I bring our class cup with colorful popsicle sticks with the name of all the students in the class. I choose names randomly, deciding on the order for who will borrow the books first.

A few days to a week later, there is a buzz growing about the book. As students start talking about it and what they think about it, I overhear conversations about it! I have a few particular students this year, that are always asking me for recommendations. They seem to think that I know all the “good” books.

I finally had some time to read a few really good children’s books this past weekend. I absolutely loved The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo, and immediately started doing a class read aloud with it. I also read So B. It. by Sarah Weeks. I was reading the ending in the hair salon and had to hold back the tears! I just finished rereading The Hunger Games (first book) as well. What can I say, except that I am soo excited for the movie to come out in March. Of course, I told my students all about this. I’m pretty sure all the copies of So B. It & The Tiger Rising are checked out by my students!

How have you seen the “teacher effect” working in your classroom? 🙂

For more slice of life entries, go to two writing teachers.

P.S. If you haven’t checked out two apples a day yet, please do so. My new teaching blog project is up and running finally!

Time to Celebrate!

It’s that time of the year, where we get overwhelmed with school work, the holidays and everything else we need to do! I don’t know about you, but my to do list keeps on increasing. I cross off one item, then I need to add five more. I’ve come to a point of not putting things on my to do list, because I think it will just stress me out more if I can’t cross it out immediately!

I think as teachers, we get so caught up in all that we need to do, we don’t stop and reflect enough on our accomplishments, how small or big they might be. I love that in reading and writing workshop, at the end of every unit, we have some sort of celebration, where we celebrate the hard work that my students have done as readers and writers. Sometimes it’s an all out publishing party with food and parents, other times, it’s a simple sharing with each other.

What if as teachers, we were required to reflect and celebrate after each quarter/semester the work that we do as teachers?

A small accomplishment that I felt proud of was when my students got really excited to read a particular book I recommended. The book I recommended to my students was Because of Mr. Terupt. I actually first heard about this book from a post from Two Writing Teachers! It has been a hit with my students. I have one copy that has been rotating around and another student just finished it this weekend. I love it when books in my class have a long waiting list and students can’t wait to read it next! My student came in and told me, “This book makes me write a lot of post-it notes.” I just smiled back. The other two students that read the book absolutely loved it as well!

My student had about 3 more pages full of post-its!

So today, stop and take a moment to reflect on the past few months and share with us one of your accomplishments! Let’s celebrate all the great work that you have been doing!

For more slice of life entries, go to two writing teachers!

Read Aloud Guests

This year, I started something new with my students. Every Friday, I have a read aloud guest who comes in and reads to my students. We’ve had different teachers and staff from our school come in to read almost every week (If I haven’t asked you yet, don’t worry your turn will come soon!).  It has been a lot of fun as my students are always curious to know who will come in and what they will read.

I have given my read aloud guests a few options on what to read. I can give specific book recommendations, or they can read a particular story they love to read, or they can choose a story in the genre that we are studying in reading or writing workshop.

So far, we’ve had a variety of stories read from picture books, short stories and even a teacher’s own written narrative. I know for me, I loved getting books read aloud to me from my parents. I know that in America, it is really common for parents to read aloud to their child every night when they are young, but I wonder how often the parents of my students do that here in Korea. I always do emphasize the importance of parent involvement in reading to their children at home during back to school night.

This week my younger brother, who also happens to be a teacher at my school will come in and read! I’m really thankful to everyone that has come in and read to my kids. YOU could be next! 🙂 Some of our past read aloud guests:

I am curious now, how many of you had your parents read aloud to you daily?  To my readers that are parents, how often do you read aloud to your kids?

A Good Suprise

As I checked my e-mail, I couldn’t believe it. I received a confirmation that I would be able to participate in the Nike We Run Seoul 10K race happening on October 23rd, with 30,000 other people! This was another one of those last minute impulse kind of decisions that I didn’t really fully think through. My friend Choua had posted on her facebook about the race the other week, and I thought that I should sign up.

A long time ago, I told myself that I would try to run in a full marathon by age 30. Well, years later, as my body is getting older and I’m feeing it more and more, I’m in no shape to run a marathon. Honestly speaking I was never a long distance runner.  I hated having to run the mile during P.E. class when I was younger. I always enjoyed playing sports like soccer and volleyball, but having to just run was pretty close to torture for me.

My friend Janice and I decided to sign up and we started training on Sunday morning. Yes, we went to our school fitness center at 9:30am to run! We started out running 5K. Today, after we both found out we are in the race, and had our second training run. We might even try to go to school early around 6am to run as well (in case anyone else wants to join)!

As I was running today, there were many times that I wanted to really give up and stop, but it was nice having other people running with me. It helped me to keep going even though every part of my body was telling me to please stop.

I’m excited to share with my students about this too. I can already see some potential analogies I could use my training for this race as connections for my mini-lessons in reading workshop!

  • Creating quarterly reading goals- Creating a goal to run 10 K, and working my way up to meet that goal.
  • Reading with fluency & stamina- When I run, I need to run at a good pace, not too slowly or not too quickly.
  • Developing strong reading partnerships- It’s much more fun and motivating to run when you have a partner.

For more slice of life entries go to: Two Writing Teachers

The Help, Hong Kong & Reading Partners!

This past summer, when I was at the Teacher’s College Reading Institute, I kept hearing about this book called The Help. A few weeks ago, I finally borrowed the book from my friend and started reading it. I didn’t really know what the book was about, but once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. I was drawn into the world of Skeeter, Minny & Aibileen. I was so curious to find out what would happen to them as they started this incredibly journey of writing their story.

As a writing teacher, I was drawn into this story because these women were developing a voice, power and freedom by sharing their stories. I loved how Aibileen wrote her stories herself and even her prayers. I loved that she found her voice through her writing. It made me think about my students, and how I want them to find their voice through their writing. I want them to see that their writing can have power, it can influence others and can be a valuable tool for the rest of their lives.

Well, the other day, I got onto my flight for Hong Kong with my friend and coworker, who happened to be reading The Help! We both brought the book with us on our trip. We had become unexpected reading partners. It was pretty exciting because now I could talk to her about the book. Also, I started to think about how I would share with my students that even adults can have reading partners. One of the important nuggets I gained from the Teacher’s College Reading Institute was that we need to be “mentor” readers for our students.

What are some ways you are a “mentor” reader for your students?

Did anyone else read The Help? What was your favorite part?