Wisdom from the Truly Fantastic Four
June 20, 2017
Today was “Step Up” Day at our school. Students move up to their next class, meet their teacher, and we have a step up ceremony for the fourth graders who are moving on to middle school.
Our fourth grade team for the last several years has started the year with a fantastic four theme. Each plays one of the members of the Fantastic Four, imparts their wisdom, and defeats “Dr. Doom” who represents all of our negative thoughts. It’s a very positive mindset message and has been very effective for our fourth grade.
Today at their step up, the teachers reminded the students of those ‘fantastic four’ skills. Somehow today as we let them go and say goodbye to a treasured teacher, these words hit home to me.
Ms. Fantastic, of course, has the ability to stretch herself. The gift of flexibility. Not everything goes the way we plan or the way we might want. Flexibility gets us through many situations.
The Human Torch represents energy, but not the kind we get from too much caffeine. Energy that comes from within. A positive mindset. The knowledge that when we put our mind to things we can accomplish much.
The Invisible Woman. When things are transparent, there is clarity, but also truth. Truth is an important quality. Be true to yourself. Be truthful with others.
The Thing… strength. The strength to persevere when things are difficult. To push our thinking, our work, ourselves to achieve.
My friends, the fourth grade teachers spoke of these things with their students in fall and today, but more importantly, they represented them to all of us each day of this year.
A View from the Balcony
May 2, 2017
I’ve been rushed lately or at least I feel rushed, like my to-do list is too long and I’m just racing through the days. But today something slowed me down. Today I was able to take in a view of our intermediate classrooms from the balcony so to speak. I accompanied some consultants that were taking a quick view of our intermediate literacy block. It was amazing to watch the reading workshops in action without having an agenda… or a role to play. Clare referred me to an idea called ‘ watch from the balcony, lead from the floor’. Think about how much we could learn, observe, think about when we just move through the classrooms and watch.
So today I moved through the intermediate classrooms in our building for just an hour or so during their reading workshop. I moved quickly not staying too long in any one spot, but returning to see a little minilesson, small group, and a little independent work. Most of these rooms, I’m in every single day. During those days, I have a purpose, a mission, goals. Today, I just watched. Just looked. The teachers were interested in what the consultants noticed. No one asked me what I noticed, so the gems are my personal treasure.
I knew you all were amazing teachers but today I noticed…
Your students are listening. They’ve learned the talk of reading workshop. They can turn and talk, and really turn and talk.
You teach with ease. You’re light on your feet. You’re enjoying yourselves. You know your stuff.
Everything in your rooms shows who you are as a teacher. You treasure your anchor books you’ve shared. You have a place for students to give feedback to you and each other. You’re sharing yourselves with your students.
There’s trust. The students trust you, you trust them… and you all trust me. No one hesitated for one second when I came and went from your room. You smiled, the students smiled. I smiled.
My smile was real. I see the work that you’ve done. The work that you’ve done with your students. The work that we’ve done together.
I feel filled up. I hope to take more of these side trips and I’m going to make sure you can take them too.
Using Story Arc to Explore Author’s Craft and Characters #SOL17
March 10, 2017
I have been taking a serendipitous journey with a fourth grade class. After reading Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing together for a weeks and then realizing that no one in the class understood theme, we regrouped… by taking a week off for February vacation. When we returned from February vacation, the magic began to happen. We did a few days on finding theme in picture books. See The Space Between for more about this beginning.
Then, we spent a few days writing a filler chapter for Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. ( See Units of Study For Teaching Reading, Fourth Grade Unit 1, Interpreting Character: The Heart of the Story.) The first day, their teacher read a chapter from the next book in the series, Super Fudge. I think we both thought the students might write from between Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Super Fudge. Not one did that. After the first day we noticed that the students writing lacked the classic elements of narrative and the central elements of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, so we decided to review narrative structure in light of Chapter 3, The Family Dog. After reading chapter 3, their teacher reviewed the story arc and conducted a discussion of the elements in this chapter. For your benefit, the story arc in this chapter includes: review as hook, micro-story to set up solution, problem, several attempts, climax, falling action, and solution.
Since it wasn’t my idea, I can say that it really was genius. She continued the great ideas by using her iPads to let students view the arc representation while they completed a revision of their chapter with the same style.
In the end, her class had a wonderful understanding of theme in novel, a terrific review of the story arc using a novel example, and two days of quick narrative writing.
These ideas could be adapted to any novel study at the intermediate grades.
Thanks to Melissa Quimby, Grade 4 for this collaboration.
I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.
Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.