Permission to Fail

blogging alongside my students

Often as teachers, we are scared of failure. We might preach to our students that it’s ok to fail, you can make mistakes but you try again. We say it’s all part of the learning process, but do we give ourselves that permission?

The deep ingrained fear of failure has followed me for a while since I was young. I still remember when I got cut from the middle school basketball team,  I literally just stopped playing basketball after that. All the passion and love I had for the sport just disappeared when I didn’t see my name on the team roster.

Today,  I find myself in the classroom, encouraging my students to be part of this incredible writing challenge. A challenge that I have so often joined as a writer. Some years, I admit that I stopped writing. I gave up too easily.  I was tired, exhausted, and didn’t want to write after work and during my spring break. At times, I didn’t even try. I felt hypocritical. Making my students do something, that I wasn’t doing.

So here I am, a little bit older and wiser. I think it might even be year #8 of participating in this challenge. I’m going to write alongside my students. And, yes, I’m going to give myself permission to fail.

It’s not too late to join us on this writing challenge! Check out more details at The Two Writing Teachers !

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

forgetful

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These past days I’ve been living on the edge or maybe just being really forgetful. I dont know why but I didn’t have an umbrella with me when I left school. I always have an umbrella tucked in my bag. You never know when it will rain here in Singapore. Yesterday, when I left school it was getting dark and overcast, but it started to rain only a few moments before I reached my apartment building.

As I left school today, it started to rain. I secretly hoped that by the time my train ride arrived at my destination the rain would miraculously stop after 45 minutes or so. Once I arrived at the MRT(train) station, I saw people with wet umbrellas coming in. I stopped by the grocery store inside, tried to take up some time and couldn’t really tell if it was still raining or not. I continued with my stubborn attitude and decided not to spend money on an umbrella. As I looked outside at the long 12 minutes between me and the comforts of my apartment, the rain seemed to be coming down even harder.

It was too late to buy an umbrella now. I carried my groceries (a bag of chips and ice cream, don’t judge) and put my grey cardigan over my white shirt and embraced the rain. I listened to the rain. I soaked up the rain. I felt the cool rain trickle down on my face.  I finally felt refreshed.

Teaching A Memorable Memoir Unit

Our last writing workshop unit of the year was our memoir unit. This is probably one of my favorite units to teach to the students. One of the reasons I enjoy this unit is that I can really see the growth of my students as a writer from the beginning of the year. Also, I love that memoirs are a reflective piece that digs a bit deeper than our personal narrative units (first unit of the year). It’s always amazing to see how fifth graders can reflect so deeply about their life at 11 years of age. I’ve had a range of writing pieces in this unit, from memoirs about a sleepover, insect obsessions, passing away of a grandparent, moving to a new school and country, reflections on fifth grade and more.

During our memoirs unit, these are the mentor texts we used:

  • Excerpts from Ralph Fletcher’s, Marshfield Dreams 
  • Short stories from Sandra Cisneros’, The House on Mango Street– Hairs, My Name, Papa Who Wakes Up Tired in the Dark
  • Short story from Cynthia Rylant,  “My Grandmother’s Hair”
  • Picture book from Cynthia Rylant, When I Was Young and in the Mountains
  • Moon Soup by Janet Wong

In addition to creating a mentor text packet with memoirs for my students to have as a reference, I like to teach them how to write 6-word memoirs. This is where they tell their own story in only 6 words. Then, I made a really simple movie with their 6-word memoirs afterwords. I had the students write in big letters their 6-word memoir on a sheet of white copy paper, then, I piled them together and voila: Team Inspire’s  6-word memoir movie

Here is Ernest Hemingway’s famous 6-word memoir: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” 

My 6-word memoir: Summer in NY means endless possibilities.

What is your 6-word memoir? Please leave yours in the comment section! 🙂

west harlem sunset