Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Party Like It's 2015

Happy 2015!

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and has enjoyed/is still enjoying these two magnificent weeks of vacation. I am not sure how it happened that we got all of this time off, but it has certainly been restorative for me. Last week, I did nothing connected to work whatsoever, so this week I have come in leisurely to prep on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday and that's a good feeling. I've been doing a lot of organizing and purging at home, so I'm mirroring that a bit in Room 110. It's always nice to come back to a fresh, clean space.

There are a few new things coming up this year that I have been scheming about for a while. It's finally time to roll them out, which is super exciting. The first is that we have our much-anticipated class pet. I came in last week to set-up the aquarium and bought some residents over the weekend. It's absolutely enchanting to sit and watch the fish and snails and, once our aquarium care team is formed and begins researching, we'll be able to present more to you about the critters we have now and will add in the coming weeks. 

Speaking of, the aquarium care team is a part of one of our new morning "ease in" activities. Like any workplace, it is hard to come right from the bus and be "on" or at 100%, so every morning after we check in and connect, the students self-direct and prepare to meet the day in their own ways. This can be social with games, physical with a power walk, organizational (i.e., cleaning desks and setting up workspaces), involve a little productive technology use, running errands, or relaxing. Most kids do a mix of these options, but we have three new additions to morning project time that will start this year.

The first is what I alluded to earlier with the aquarium team; it's called SCR&P ("scrap"), which stands for Sustaining our Community through Research & Projects. Twice a week, student teams will meet in the morning to tackle an issue connected to our time together. You can read more about it on our new community blog here. I have written a little intro, but the student teams will own this communication tool once they get going; they all have author access to the community blog and, given their enthusiasm for the wiki, I can't wait to see where they go with SCR&P projects.

We will also start yoga (finally!) on Tuesday and Thursday mornings in the gym. Last year, we were awarded 20 yoga mats as part of our first Donors Choose project and we had great fun getting on the mat and wiggling, bending, and stretching. We only had time for one weekly yoga session last year, so I am super stoked to have finagled room for two. It's such a precious time and totally sets the tone for the day. We will start by learning the Sun Salutation flow and then engage with other fun and challenging poses as part of other flows as recommended by yoga for kids experts and resources. We end each session with a savasana to relax, meditate, and do a guided visualization together. It's good stuff.

The third new part of our schedule is the addition of personalized "Morning Work" folders for each student. This is something that I had wanted to have ready for the start of the year, so I'm a little late, but it's a pretty big project! Each student has a folder of literacy skill-building activities that s/he can do completely at her/his own pace and connected to any book, text, magazine, or piece of reading material that s/he wishes. The activities are tailored to our Common Core goals, but they are so infinitely interpret-able that the kids can take them in a lot of directions, depending on what they feel like tackling. The Morning Work folders should solve any "I don't have anything to do!", "I'm done, what's next?", and "I'm bored" problems pretty solidly and they'll give me lots of information on each student's strengths and points of growth as well as chances to meet and talk with kids--on their own or in groups--about what they're working on. Adding more conferring time has been a big part of the coursework for my my reading teacher endorsement (the course I just finished before the break!). I'm glad to have scheduled more of our week in this way, it's such a good use of everyone's time.

The first week back, we will close out our December mini-unit on opinion writing. Those snow days kind of killed our workflow, so we need to make up for lost time. I am hoping that we can continue with opinion, persuasive, and argument writing more in the context of our January Humanities unit on women's suffrage.

I think that's about it. Keep your eye on the Facebook page because I have a lot of pictures to post in the next couple of days, both of those students who took part in our Louis Hine child labor photo shoot and of everyone mugging with their mugs from our gift swap. The holidays--the food, the presents, the unbridled good cheer, and the general merry-making--really highlighted what a wicked cool community we have going on in Room 110. I knew it all along, of course, but it never hurts to see the roof raised by so much kindness and joy.

**Quick note... There was homework over the break in the form of students completing their child labor opinion piece on the wiki. The kids knew this and were prepared to tackle it at some point over the course of the two weeks. I have seen a few intrepid scholars logging in and doing the assignment, so please remember that this work is due and will be reviewed as part of Humanities time on Monday. Everyone should use time over the next two days to make like a Scout and BE PREPARED!

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