Sunday, September 28, 2014

Blogger Meetup: Folks You'll Want to Follow


I was so excited and nervous about the New England Blogger meet up that I could hardly sleep the night before!  I kept dreaming about being at school and having to fill out forms.  I think the children were "helping" me.  They were done wrong so I had to do them over and over again.  It was such a restless sleep that I actually felt relieved when the alarm went off.  I felt like I was done with work and going to play!




It was lucky I set my alarm early, both to escape the dream and to catch the train.  I left with plenty of time, but because I was unable to go to the station I'm most familiar with, I forgot where to pay, and had to wander around for a while.  I also realized I looked at the weekday times instead of the weekend times.  Oops.  Nevermind, I still had ten minutes on the platform to finish my bagel.



When I arrived at North Station, I knew that Science Park was the stop I wanted, and that I could walk the distance for a single stop.  I just wasn't sure which direction to go.  Fortunately there was a man on the train holding a sign for the Museum of Science.  With an arrow.  So of course I followed him.


I am not making this up.




Once I could see the building, I took a little detour through the park on Nashua Street to take pictures and soak up some sun.  Gotta stock up on vitamin D before the winter!  ;)  It was also fun to see the Duck Tour boats on the Charles.  I saw the one my husband and I rode last year.

I arrived 15 minutes early and found the right entrance and the cafe on my first try (anyone who knows me well will never believe that I found the first station, museum, entrance, and cafe without incident but I am not making this up either.  Props to the man with the sign and the arrow). 

I wandered around the cafe a few times, counting myself lucky that it was too busy for the staff to be concerned why I was doing this and not getting food.  After asking one woman sitting in a corner on a laptop (sounds like a blogger to me) if she was meeting Jodi and getting a no (glad I didn't ask "Are you a blogger because I can see you have a laptop), I sat near-ish the windows and Emailed her to say I was there and wearing purple. 

And within 5 or 10 minutes, there she was!

She didn't ACT like a celebrity, even though I know I wasn't the only one who was a little bit in awe of her.  I think it helps that she and I are practically neighbors (turns up she even lived in the same town I grew up for a few years).  So she was just so easy to talk to about local stuff and teaching. 

Soon Mrs. Mack arrived, and once again I was starstruck (although her daughter is the bigger Instagram star; half my feed is of her little cutie!)  It was so surreal seeing a stranger posting on IG "walking my dog" one minute, and within the hour sitting down to lunch with her and putting a voice with the updates! 

I prefer taking photos to being in them!
More people arrived, Furnell and Vera.  I didn't know I knew Vera until later on in the lunch when we started swapping business cards (feels weird to call it that...I'm a teacher.  I guess I'm a business person thanks to Teachers Pay Teachers, but really, even on there I feel like I'm a teacher.  Can we call them teachers' cards?).  That's when it clicked!  Vera!  The Tutu Teacher!  I have seen her around!  And she was so lovely to talk to.  She had such a wonderful story about making the move from Texas and how the tutus came to be part of her teacher persona.

It was great talking to Furnell too, because she had certain work experiences that I could relate to and learned from.  Next came Susan, who is one of my readers, and got the ball rolling on getting everyone's blog address and a group photo.  And finally, a grade level partnership from Connecticut arrived!  Props to Sara and Emily for driving out (even this MA native took the train in). 

It was so amazing to meet the bloggers I knew before, and those who I didn't know have some super cute blogs to follow.  I'm linking up at the bottom of the post so you can go check them out too.  It was a very casual meeting; we talked more about our home towns and teaching than about blogging.  But only because Jodi forgot to bring along her slideshow (joking).

Once we left I was not ready to leave so I went back to the park to enjoy the sun, make some notes, then tinkered with my phone until I was able to make it find me some "local places of interest." 

I would not have guessed that the closest spot was the Cambridgeside Galleria; I haven't been there in years!  So I shopped until my feet hurt.  I was so ready for some updates to my fall wardrobe (and so in need of some sneakers).

If you're a blogger reading and not sure if you want to go to a blogger meetup, DO IT.  Part of me was nervous to send Jodi a confirmation that I'd attend, because I'm quiet in person.  Blogging is a great outlet for me to share ideas, and I wondered if many other bloggers would be the same.  But no, there was lively conversation throughout.  I'll definitely pursue the next opportunity if the timing is right.  Having a four day weekend (with our school letting out for Rosh Hashana) made this the perfect time to do it.  So I hope to see you (and the bloggers I met today) there!



Here are the bloggers I met (by the way, the grade range is K-3):
Jodi @ http://clutterfreeclassroom.blogspot.com/
Mrs. Mack @ http://thirdgradecupcakes.blogspot.com/
Furnell @ http://owlalwayslove2ndgrade.blogspot.com/
Vera @ http://thetututeacher.blogspot.com/
Susan @ http://pinkwatermelons.blogspot.com/
Emily @ http://munchkinsinc.blogspot.com/
Sara @ http://www.framptonsfundamentals.com/

I hope you find someone new to follow!




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Friday, September 26, 2014

Tuck Everlasting Unit Resources




When my district adopted the MDESE's model unit for Tuck Everlasting, I was dubious.  EVERY kid was going to have to read this old book?  I knew the gist of it (spoiler alert) which was the family lives forever.  I'd read an excerpt when I was in school (older than fourth grade).  So when the books arrived I cracked one open.

My first impression (first few chapters) was how DRY it was.  I know, lots of descriptive language is a great model for kids to have for their own writing.  But it did not help me get into the story.  Sure enough, when I was halfway through reading the book with my class last year several admitted, "I thought this book was really boring at first." 

Once I got through the first part, it did start to feel more intriguing.  I knew that some of my fourth graders would appreciate the story, so I was feeling a little better.  At least those who didn't love it would be exposed to something new and different instead of the same old Diary of a Wimpy Kid books (not that I'm knocking them; they have an important purpose too in that they get reluctant readers reading).

And then I got to the scene where the mother kills the stranger.

What.

I was so upset.  I had to use this book, a story where a woman commits murder because she doesn't like what someone is going to do.  Here we teach kids that hurting someone is never an option, and we're exploring situations where the only option someone has is killing.  I know this is an important dilemma to explore and debate, but for ten year olds?! 

I opened up my model unit with a chip on my shoulder.

I had to admit, the unit itself was actually pretty good.  It has stopping points, discussion questions, suggestions for the gradual release of responsibility, vocabulary lists, examples of figurative language, assessments and even suggested ideas for anchor charts.    It is well organized sequentially and the appendices are useful.  This really is a well thought out, complete unit. 

What it did not have is a single student friendly practice page. 

So of course, I made my own. 

One thing I wanted my students to do was to analyze characters.  I started out with three (Winnie, Mae and The Stranger).  Then I wanted them to focus on the main character's thoughts and feelings, and what caused them.  I created a set of pages that tracks Winnie's feelings in each chapter. 



Next, I wanted students to record how the characters were connected to one another.  We used a folding organizer for their reader's response journals as well as a homework page.








I also wanted a space for kids to write their ideas about the theme.  I felt that this needed to be done once every 5 chapters in order to keep students thinking about it as they were reading.  Their ideas would evolve as more of the story unraveled, so it was unlikely that they'd know the theme by the end of the first few chapters.  Yet they needed to be thinking about the big picture from the beginning in order to synthesize a response at the end. 






The book is rich with figurative language, and I wanted to make sure that the kids understood the meaning and who/what the phrases were describing.  I created recording sheets for the language being used in each chapter.  They include the page numbers of each example of figurative language in order to guide their search.




The vocabulary is at a very high level for most fourth graders, so I needed to have a system for previewing and writing kid friendly definitions for the words before reading each chapter.  I kept these pages small enough to be glued into their reader's composition notebooks.



Some of the other things the kids needed to demonstrate, such as comprehension, was mostly covered by the model unit.  I will post about how I made these more accessible in a future post.


http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Tuck-Everlasting-Activities-Pages-1466056
Overall, the unit was a BIG success.  I was really surprised.  I thought if I was not excited about the book, they wouldn't be either.  But I think with all the work I poured into these pages, they must have picked up on my energy.  They really were excited about reading the next chapter each day, and our debate about whether or not Mae was justified was thoughtful and worthwhile.  So I'm really proud of this packet of materials.  If you need to teach Tuck Everlasting, you can download the free unit here:  http://www.doe.mass.edu/candi/model/units/ELAg4-TuckEverlasting.pdf.  If you find that you need supplemental pages to make the content accessible for you students, I have (finally, after months of refining) my Tuck Everlasting Activity Pages available for you.  
 
And finally, an unrelated side note.  If you are a long time follower, you may have noticed that my posting schedule did decline over the past few months.  I thought that was forgivable due to summer vacation.  However I wanted to let you know that I expect to be posting less than I did in past years.  I've had a fairly big life change and as a result I've had to re-prioritize my time.  Posting every week just isn't feasible for me anymore. 

Now, this does NOT mean I am ending this blog.  On the contrary.  I feel a great sense of pride in this blog.  Even two weeks ago I got the sweetest comment about how helpful my posts have been.  The blog is here to stay for anyone to stumble on and learn from.  The reason I'm going to post less is to MAINTAIN the level of quality.  I would rather post once every two months than post filler every week.  Just as my time is limited and precious, so is yours.  I am committed to keeping my posts interesting and informative for you all.

So I hope you will stick with me here on Shut the Door and Teach, because I still have a passion for teaching fourth grade and sharing what works for me in my classroom. 

Thanks for reading. 






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