Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Must Read: The Joy of Planning by Franki Sibberson

Planning has been something I've loved but also something I need more time for and practice with as I map out a unit of study or think about planning over longer chunks of the year.  I embrace it because I feel like it is my time to be creative, think about what my kids need and merge that with the curriculum. After reading Franki's newest book: The Joy of Planning, I have been smiling about her fresh look on what she mentions in her intro as "Falling Back in Love with Lesson Planning."  Franki's perspective on planning minilessons while balancing common core and students needs has breathed energy into my own planning.  She is a reflective and thoughtful planner. The questions she uses to plan her study have helped me better explain to my student teacher the importance of these four pieces she uses to organize her studies: reflect on goals for students, gather texts needed, differentiate so kids can enter the study where they are as learners and consider if the assessment matches the goals.

 She begins the book with ten solid beliefs about planning minilessons and how these beliefs have evolved for her.  As I read these, I couldn't help but nod as she mentioned big ideas like interactive, independent, community conversations and planning for the reader.  She says, "The teacher is the person who spends time with the students in her care, and it best suited to create lessons that will meet her students where they are. Because lessons are designed to help build understanding, it is important teachers develop the lessons they teach so they can revise and replan as needed, based on student response."

While Franki wrote this book with 3-6 audience in mind, her thinking is still crucial to K-2 teachers.  First, because we all plan minilessons.  No matter what "grade" we teach, each of the beliefs Franki mentions in her intro help us consider students regardless of grade level. Second, the book is filled with ideas and mentors that accessible to many readers, including primary. With common core, we all will be scaffolding our teaching to address characters, theme, and non-fiction texts.  Third, I love how Franki embraces the use of picture books for many of these lessons. She embraces many texts that students in 3-6 may have encountered in their primary classrooms.

 Last, I love how she loads the book with questions. These questions give us something to consider when trying to plan our own minilessons as well as set the pace for students to drive the thinking. These questions at the end of each of her lessons really are the heart of her thinking.  These questions are also differentiated enough that primary teachers could grab one or modify for their own classroom. In her lesson titled: Talking and Thinking about Characters she uses Today I Will Fly by Mo Willems. She ties the lesson to common core work with "drawing on specific details from text" as she asks her 4th graders to think deeper about how they know the characters Elephant and Piggie. In first grade, we set goals for our students to "describe characters" at the beginning of the year and later to "describe characters using key details in text.  Franki poses a couple questions for her fourth graders: How are Piggie and Elephant the same? How do you know? As primary teachers we might use her questioning strategy to pose:  Who are the characters? How do you know? and later in the year, What do we know about Piggie and Elephant? How do you know?

If you are looking to reflect back about planning in your reader's workshop, this book will certainly be a great text for developing thoughtful minilessons.  It clarifies Franki's planning process and has authentic ideas as well as real questions that have helped me refine my own practice in planning.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New Room, New Spaces

This year I am in a new room. It is a large room, with wonderful space that I was a little intimidated by as I moved my belongings into it this summer. As I unpacked and shopped for new pieces (thanks to that store) I began to love my new room. I thought I would share some pictures and talk through some of the pieces I bought as well as a few changes I have made in my new larger space.
This piece to the left my husband made for me out of rain gutters inspired by the rain gutter shelves I drooled over in Pinterest. The shelf to the right is my favorite buy from IKEA. It has allowed my to showcase books in baskets and stack books on the shelf next to these baskets. I used pictures of authors or characters on the shelves to help organize these books so that kids would know where to return them.

I decided to label my math bins with typed names on each bin. It feels neater and cleaner to me. I also decided to feature the math books in baskets in this area. I also have the plastic drawers ready for the math games I am starting to introduce. I like being able to pull out the drawer and place it on the table so kids can get to the supplies for that game and then slide it back when time to clean up.
I have moved my computers around the room to allow kids to access them throughout the day and to send the message that technology fits into everything we do as learners. I used an old white IKEA table covered with an old map I had to host one computer work area that I am hoping kids will use to research the birds we begin to notice outside the window on PebbleGo.

My wonder bulletin board features many plants and animals we will encounter in our many visits to the Metro Park across the street. I want to use this board to begin conversation about what we will see, notice and wonder about as we frequent the park.
The small stools you see have been the biggest hit this year. The kids love to hang out on these during writing workshop and math time, playing games and writing.
It may be hard to see but I added magnetic letters and pictures above my larger baskets: in this case the characters that we love baskets. The bigger baskets have been tough for kids to move so I pulled out the top shelf so that they could get their arms into the space above these allowing books to get in and out easily.
Last, this is my word work and work play area filled with many hands on letter and word game-type materials. I placed the basket of books for word learning above this shelf and I am loving this space. These are just peeks into these new spaces inside this new room that has brought lots of smiles already to 20 first graders (and me)!