Writer’s Workshop in Full Swing

This has been a very exciting month for me as I have worked to launch Writer’s Workshop in my classroom. The writers in my room are very enthusiastic and LOVE writing! They continue to add to their Writer’s Notebooks as we incorporate new ideas, mini-lessons, and grammar skills. I invite them to try any and all techniques, and, surprisingly, they are!

Our basic schedule is ideal. We have an hour block of Workshop. I have it broken into three parts: 10-15 minute mini-lesson, 30 minute writing block, and 10 minute share time. During the writing block, I have been working to conference with my students. This is where the differentiated learning occurs…and many great discussions occur! I have been using my Writer’s Workshop Record Sheets to help me track which students I have met with, what they did well, an area on which to focus, and when they have shared.

The other day, Alex and I had a remarkable conference. He had been writing a fantasy story about Zubas (zebra-tubas) who go to war over pizza. He proudly shared the map he created of the setting (as all good fantasies have…he’s truly reading like a writer!). As he was sharing part of his story with me, I was mentally making my “teaching point” about encouraging him to focus on incorporating more dialogue into his story. Before I could utter the words, my mouth dropped open and spread into a huge grin…Alex said to me that he had noticed, while reading The Hobbit, how J. R. R. Tolkien had used dialogue for his characters. Alex commented to me that when a new character spoke, he realized Tolkien started a new paragraph…he stole the words right from my mouth! I was so proud and amazed by his observation and desire for application in his writing, I about exploded. Last week we had a mini-lesson on reading like writers and looking for things they can emulate in their writing…Alex had done exactly that! I invited him to share at the end of class, but Alex chose to wait until his piece was further along. I can’t wait to hear him tell his classmates of his writing!

Although the following YouTube clip is not of Alex sharing his dialogue, it is of another boy who shared the pride of writing dialogue in his Writer’s Notebook.

A Very Early Field Trip

The second week of school, we took our 5th graders on our first field trip of the year to Harris Forest Preserve. What? Seriously? Yes, it’s true!  As a connection to our first science unit, Ecosystems, we used the field trip as the unit kick-off since we had not really begun teaching . I have to admit, I was less than thrilled at this trip being so early in the year; however, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise!

The weather that day was beautiful, considering it had rained heavily the two days prior to the trip. My class was excited and eager for the day to begin. We had two great parent chaperones, Mrs. Bryant and Mrs. Kuhn, and our awesome Teaching Assistant, Miss Carol, joined us for the day! We went on a nature hike where we learned a great deal about our local ecosystem. Something all the kids enjoyed learning was what poison ivy looks like. They also enjoyed seeing if they could spot it on their own, which they did!

Another fun experience we had was our prairie exploration time. The kids had a great time catching, releasing, and identifying dragonflies, butterflies, bugs, and other prairie critters. Katie found the inchworm very fascinating…she likes inchworms a lot!!!

Katie’s Inchworm

We ended the day at the pond, looking for signs of a healthy ecosystem. We found evidence that the pond was healthy. There were nymphs, tadpoles, and other signs of growing and returning pond life. It was especially muddy around the pond, so the students had to be very cautious so they didn’t fall in or step in a soggy spot. Unfortunately, Chris didn’t realize his foot had sunk into the mucky mud until it was too late. The muck swallowed his shoe! Mrs. Bryant and I had to dig into the muck to find Chris’s shoe (we couldn’t see it). Once we felt it we had to pull until it suctioned itself free of the gripping muck…SSHHLLOOOOOOOPPP! Success!

Catching Critters at the Pond

A Beautiful Day to Catch CrittersThe Boys Love the Pond!

Our class thoroughly enjoyed this field trip and learned so much from the events of the day. We also benefitted greatly because the trip helped bring us closer as a class. It was a terrific opportunity to get to know each other better! Although I was not excited about the trip being so early, it truly turned out to be a blessing for our class!